GP2: Vandoorne wraps up 2015 title in Sochi

© GP2 Series
1 Comment

Stoffel Vandoorne has been crowned the 2015 GP2 Series champion after finishing fourth in Sunday’s sprint race at the Sochi Autodrom in Russia.

Vandoorne, 23, has dominated proceedings throughout the GP2 season, claiming five victories and setting a new record for consecutive pole positions earlier in the year.

The McLaren junior driver had been expected to secure the title on Saturday in Russia, but victory for America’s Alexander Rossi forced him to postpone celebrations until Sunday.

Vandoorne managed to finish the sprint race in fourth place, beating Rossi in sixth, to give himself an unassailable lead with four races remaining.

“We knew before coming here [winning the title] was our target,” Vandoorne said. “We could have done it yesterday, but things did not go 100% our way. But crossing the line in fourth today ahead of Alexander Rossi was enough to do it. That’s what counts in the end.

“The job is done and now I have two weekends left in the season. I will be relaxed and have no pressure. I will push really hard for a couple more victories and finish the season on a high.

“To be crowned with two rounds to spare, it shows all the work we’ve done this season and how good it’s been together with ART. We’ve achieved great things over the past two years. We’ve broke nearly all the records this season. It’s one that I will definitely remember forever.”

Vandoorne will now be trying to find a place on the Formula 1 grid in 2016, but may be set for a year on the sidelines given the lack of seats available. As champion, he is unable to return to GP2.

However, the fashion in which the Belgian has won the title has outlined him as a surefire star for the future in F1, and will make McLaren’s driver dilemma all the more difficult in the future.

As expected, FIA denies granting Colton Herta a Super License to race in F1

Colton Herta Super License
Brian Spurlock/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
2 Comments

The governing body for Formula One on Friday said IndyCar star Colton Herta will not be granted the Super License that the American needs to join the F1 grid next season.

“The FIA confirms that an enquiry was made via the appropriate channels that led to the FIA confirming that the driver Colton Herta does not have the required number of points to be granted an FIA Super Licence,” the FIA said in a statement.

The FIA decision was not a surprise.

Red Bull was interested in the 22-year-old Californian and considering giving Herta a seat at AlphaTauri, its junior team. AlphaTauri has already said that Pierre Gasly will return next season and Yuki Tsunoda received a contract extension earlier this week.

However, AlphaTauri has acknowledged it would release Gasly, who is apparently wanted at Alpine, but only if it had a compelling driver such as Herta to put in the car. F1 has not had an American on the grid since Alexander Rossi in 2015, but Herta did not particularly want the FIA to make an exception to the licensing system to get him a seat.

At issue is how the FIA rates IndyCar, a series it does not govern. The points it awards to IndyCar drivers rank somewhere between F2 and F3, the two junior feeder series into F1.

IndyCar drivers have criticized the system in defense of Herta and the intense, close racing of their own highly competitive series. Herta has won seven IndyCar races, is the youngest winner in series history and has four starts in the Indianapolis 500. He qualified on the front row in 2021 and finished a career-best eighth in 2020.

Rossi, who has spent the last four seasons as Herta’s teammate at Andretti Autosport, lashed out this week because “I’m so sick and tired of this back and forth” regarding the licensing.

“The whole premise of it was to keep people from buying their way into F1 and allowing talent to be the motivating factor,” Rossi wrote on social media. “That’s great. We all agree Colton has the talent and capability to be in F1. That’s also great and he should get that opportunity if it’s offered to him. Period.

“Motorsport still remains as the most high profile sport in the world where money can outweigh talent. What is disappointing and in my opinion, the fundamental problem, is that the sporting element so often took a backseat to the business side that here had to be a method put in place in order for certain teams to stop taking drivers solely based on their financial backing.”

Rossi added those decisions “whether out of greed or necessity, is what cost Colton the opportunity to make the decision for himself as to if he wanted to alter career paths and race in F1. Not points on a license.”

The system favors drivers who compete in FIA-sanctioned series. For example, Linus Lundqvist earned his Super License by winning the Indy Lights championship.

Lundqvist’s required points come via the 15 he earned for the Lights title, 10 points for finishing third in Lights last year and his 2020 victory in the FIA-governed Formula Regional Americas Championship, which earned him 18 points.

That gave the 23-year-old Swede a total of 43 points, three more than needed for the license.

Herta, meanwhile, ended the IndyCar season with 32 points. He can still earn a Super License by picking up one point for any free practice sessions he runs this year; McLaren holds his F1 rights and could put him in a car. Herta could also potentially run in an FIA-sanctioned winter series to pick up some points.

Michael Andretti, who has petitioned the FIA to expand its grid to add two cars for him to launch a team, said he never bothered to explore potential replacements for Herta on the IndyCar team because he was confident the Super License request would be rejected.

Andretti has been met by severe resistance from existing F1 teams and even F1 itself in his hope to add an 11th team. Andretti could still get on the grid by purchasing an existing team and he’d like to build his program around Herta, who is under contract in IndyCar to Andretti through 2023.