Though his IndyCar team’s dalliance with Formula One was appealing, Colton Herta said he remains happy returning to the NTT IndyCar Series this season after Andretti Autosport explored putting him in an F1 ride.
After his bid to buy a majority stake in the Alfa Romeo team was derailed a few months ago, Michael Andretti said Herta, 21, would “lead the way” in a potential F1 foray because “he’d be the perfect guy to do it. We definitely were going to try to get him into the seat because I believe he could be a competitive driver in Europe. I really do.”
During preseason IndyCar interviews Tuesday, Herta gave his reaction to Andretti’s Alfa Romeo deal falling through and noted that a driver’s window for making the jump to F1 is narrow.
“I was never disappointed because I have a great opportunity here in America with Andretti and IndyCar,” Herta said. “Obviously, I love racing Indy cars. I’ve grown up racing Indy cars, but there is other stuff that I’d like to drive in my career, and some of that stuff like Formula One is time-sensitive. If I don’t get the opportunity soon, we’ve seen how crucial it is to be in at a young age there. It just doesn’t happen later.
“It was something that I was interested in. It didn’t happen, but I’m not disappointed it didn’t happen. I’m not living a sorrow story with the backup plan being an Andretti IndyCar team. I’m not living the worst life.”
Andretti, who drove for McLaren during the 1993 F1 season, has said he still wants to be involved as an F1 team owner, which would broaden a racing empire that fields cars in several series such as IndyCar, IMSA and Extreme E.
Before excelling in Indy Lights in 2017-18 and becoming the youngest IndyCar winner in history as a 2019 rookie, Herta raced in Europe for two years. Mario Andretti, the last American to win a race and F1 championship in 1978, said during an episode of “Coffee With Kyle” that he considers Colton Herta the best U.S. prospect for F1 stardom.
Another young candidate from IndyCar is rising star Pato O’Ward. The Arrow McLaren SP driver has been open about his F1 aspirations and said “those opportunities, you have to take them as they come.”
Though he also has goals he wants to accomplish in IndyCar (this May will mark his last opportunity to become the youngest Indy 500 winner in history), Herta said winning an Indy 500 or IndyCar championship weren’t prerequisites for making the jump to F1.
“It would be nice,” Herta said. “Do I think it’s crucial? No. I think there’s a great opportunity to come back to IndyCar whenever I’m done with Formula One, whether that be in a year or 10 years.
“And I’ll still be young enough to win championships then, hopefully, too. If I were to go to F1, I don’t think it’s going to be go to F1 and then retire straight from there. There’s a lot of stuff I want to do in IndyCar. I wouldn’t hold it only to Europe. If I do leave (to F1), I’d love to come back to race in the States somewhere.”
Herta, who signed a contract extension with Andretti through 2023 last year, was fifth in the 2021 IndyCar points standings with a career-best three victories, finishing 94 points behind champion Alex Palou. After winning the final two races last season, the Andretti star believes his first title is within reach.
“I don’t think it’s going to take much to clean it up and go for a championship run,” Herta said. “Ninety-four points sounds like a lot, but if you look at the season we had and some of the lows we had, it’s real easy to find.”