Classic Cars

Colton Herta doesn’t feel the pressure to possibly be the next American in F1

Colton Herta doesn't feel the pressure to possibly be the next American in F1

  • Second-generation IndyCar driver Colton Herta has won six wins and seven poles in just three years in IndyCar.
  • He seems unfazed by the world’s expectations of him and is solely focused on driving.
  • At some point, possibly at the end of the season, he will test an F1 car for McLaren.

    Colton Herta is having a phenomenal start to his career IndyCar racing career: He is the youngest driver winning an IndyCar race when he won the 2019 COTA race at age 18. He is the the youngest to claim a pole, which he did as a 19-year-old at Road America in 2019. After just three full seasons in IndyCar, he has six wins and seven poles.

    And just two weeks ago, McLaren announced that Herta was going test an F1.

    Is the polished youngster from Southern California America’s next big hope for F1? Maybe, maybe not. The thing is, he seems immune to the pressure from fans and the media to achieve great things and immune to the pressure to live up to his famous IndyCar racer father. Bryan Hertawho himself has won two Indy 500s as a team owner and two IndyCar races as a driver.

    We found ourselves sitting at the same table with Herta during the media day for the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach and, as anyone would have had the opportunity, asked her a few questions.

    Herta’s first IndyCar win came when he was just 18, in Texas, obviously from the hats.

    Sportswire iconGetty Images

    AW: Street courses versus ovals, if you went to F1, which is what everyone is hoping for, would you miss ovals?

    Herta: Yes and no, because I think the whole plan is that if I were to go to F1, I would want to come back to IndyCar at some point. So of course I would probably miss them, but overall I would come back and run on them again. So here is.

    AW: Do you have more clarity on your test contract for F1?

    Herta: Even I don’t know when I do it and how many days I do it. We just announced it. I know when I go to the store to adjust my seat. And then I think the dates will kind of follow that. I know what dates they have planned – they have a wide range of dates. But we just have to pick a few that will work for both of us (McLaren and him). Obviously, we’re both very busy.

    AW: So you don’t know where it’s going to be either?

    Herta: I don’t know where it’s going to be. There are probably 10 tracks (where the test drives could take place) and they have dates at all of these different tracks and at all of these different times. So it could be a track three times, four times, five times. It can be five different tracks, three different tracks or just one track. Yeah, I’m not really too sure.

    AW: But it’s probably a track you haven’t ridden on.

    Herta: May be. You know, I did a lot of races in Europe, in F4 and F3. So I went there quite a bit. But there are circuits on the program that I don’t think I have covered. But it will be cool. Even though I’ve been on the track, it will be such a different way of riding. The last time I would have driven (there) would have been in 2015 or 2016 in Formula 3. So in the way I would approach the corners, I imagine in a car like that compared to a Formula 1, it would be very different.

    AW: Have you been in a Formula 1 car?

    Herta: I’ve never been.

    AW: I guess any trail you could follow, you’ve already walked it on a simulator.

    Herta: Yes. So once we figure out the dates, which will be later in the year, later in the summer, most likely after the end of the season, we’ll know where we’re actually driving. So I’ll go there, I’ll be on the simulator and I’ll have an idea. I have already driven on McLaren sim. And you know, I would say that’s good. But I don’t know what the actual car looks like. So I can’t really say if it’s realistic or not. So it will be cool to see that aspect too.

    AW: So you drove on their simulator?

    Herta: Yeah.

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    Herta likes to see Will Power struggle with champagne after another podium finish.

    Sean GardnerGetty Images

    AW: It’s supposed to be the best thing in the world. Is this your experience?

    Herta: I have no idea. It was good. But who knows if the car really wants it, if it has that much grip or if the braking feels like that? I am not sure. I’m sure they know what they’re doing. And I’m sure it’s probably very close, because of the amount of money they probably spend on this stuff. But for me, I can’t definitely say yes or no to that.

    AW: Pato O’Ward went over there and did some testing, and we haven’t really heard from anything since. Is there any friction between you two? Like, he thought he was the guy and now maybe you’re the guy?

    Herta: I’m not too sure. You know, I haven’t spoken to Pato since this all started, so I’m not really sure. I know he has a contract. And he’s in IndyCar with McLaren, for this year, I believe. I don’t know if there are still years beyond that. So I can’t really comment on that. But I don’t know his agreement with the Formula 1 team.

    AW: It’s quite early, but do you feel a lot of pressure to be the next American in F1?

    Herta: Not at all, yet. No no. And even when I do, there’s been a lot of pressure for me to get into the sport and how good my dad was and everything. And I didn’t care.

    AW: You didn’t care…

    Herta: I didn’t care about the pressure. Like, I don’t think it really reflected anything negative on me. But I feel like it’s something that racing drivers are really good at. It’s like, once they actually get in the car, because there’s always media talk or how you should do this or how you should do that, and so I think the drivers are really good to get used to it. And once they’re actually driving, that’s all they focus on.

    AW: You only think about understeer, oversteer…

    Herta: Exactly, things like that. And everything else fades away.

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