Colton Herta ‘loves’ racing IndyCar but still has interest in Formula One

Colton Herta F1 Andretti
Stacy Revere/Getty Images

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.”

SuperMotocross: Ken Roczen urgently needed change

Roczen change
Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media

Change can be frightening, but it is often exhilarating and Ken Roczen, a rider in his ninth season on a 450 bike, it was urgently needed.

Roczen ended the 2022 Supercross season with his worst performance in five years. After finishing outside of the top five in seven of his last eight rounds in the stadium series, well down the points’ standings in ninth, he decided to put that season on hold.

How it ended was in stark contrast to how it began. Roczen’s 2022 season got off to the best possible start. He won the Supercross opener at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California by more than seven seconds over the 2021 champion Cooper Webb.

That would be his last podium and he scored only one more top-five in the Glendale, Arizona Triple Crown.

MORE: Ken Roczen sweeps top five in Anaheim 2 Triple Crown

Before 2022, Roczen was a regular challenger for the championship despite being plagued by major accidents that required surgery in 2017 and 2018. On his return, he was diagnosed with the Epstein-Barr virus, which presents with symptoms of heavy fatigue, muscle weakness and loss of appetite and last year he tested positive for COVID-19.

Against those odds, he finished second in the outdoor season in 2019 and third in 2020. In the Supercross series, he finished third in 2020 and second in 2021.

But the abbreviated season of 2022 signaled a need for change for Roczen.

“I needed the change urgently,” Roczen said in last week’s post-race press conference at Angel Stadium. “I did a pretty big change in general.”

Those comments came three races into the 2023 with him sitting among the top three finishers for the first time in 10 Supercross rounds. It was the 57th podium of his career, only six behind 10th-place Ryan Villopoto. It was also the first for Suzuki since 2019 when Chad Reed gave them one in Detroit 63 rounds ago.

Taking time off at the end of the Supercross season had the needed effect. He rejoined SuperMotocross in the outdoor season and immediately stood on the podium at Fox Raceway in Pala, California. Two rounds later, he won at Thunder Valley in Lakewood, Colorado. The relief was short lived and he would not stand on the podium again until this year.

Roczen Motocross Round 3
Ken Roczen won Round 3 of the outdoor season in 2022 at Thunder Valley after finished second in Moto 1 and first in Moto 2. Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media

Winds of Change

Roczen’s offseason was dramatic. Citing differences over his announcement to compete in the World Supercross Championship, he split with Honda HRC and declared himself a free agent. It wasn’t a difficult decision; Roczen was signed only for the Supercross season.

That change had the desired effect. Roczen won the WSX championship in their two-race, pilot season. More importantly, he proved to himself that he could compete for wins.

Late in the offseason, Roczen announced he would also change manufacturers with a move to HEP Progressive Ecstar Suzuki. He won the 2016 Pro Motocross title for Suzuki with nine wins in 12 Nationals and finished no worse than second. He easily outran the competition with an advantage of 86 points over second-place Eli Tomac.

“I just think change overall made it happen – and these overseas races – it’s really just a snowball,” Roczen said. “You start somewhere and you feel like something works out and I got better and had more fun doing it. Working with the team as well and working on the motorcycle to get better and actually see it paying off. It’s just, it’s just a big boost in general.”

The return to Suzuki at this stage of his career, after nearly a decade of competing on 450 motorcycles, recharged Roczen. He is one of three riders, (along with Cooper Webb and his former Honda teammate Chase Sexton), with a sweep of the top five in the first three rounds of the 2023 Supercross season.

But last week’s podium really drove home how strong he’s been.

“I think we’re all trying to take it all in,” Roczen said. “I wouldn’t say it came out of nowhere really, but before the season starts you think about – or I thought of how my whole last season went – and it’s been a long time since I’ve been on the podium.”

Roczen’s most recent podium prior to Anaheim 2 came at Budds Creek Motocross Park in Mechanicsville, Maryland last August in Round 10 of the outdoor season. His last podium in Supercross was the 2022 season opener that raised expectations so high.

Supercross Round 1 results
Ken Roczen raised expectations with his season opening win at Anaheim but did not stand on the box again in the Supercross series. Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media

The change Roczen needed was not just a different team and bike. More importantly, he needed the freedom to set his own schedule and control his training schedule.

“It’s long days, but I’m really into it at the moment,” Roczen said. “Overall, I felt [that] throughout this off season and now my health has been really well, really good, so that helps. It’s needed to get to the top. I’m pretty confident that we’re, we’re doing the right thing – that I’m doing the right thing.

“I’m doing all my training on my own and I’m planning out my entire week. And I feel like I have a really good system going right now with recovery and putting in some hard days. Right now, I don’t really have anybody telling me what to do. I’m the best judge of that.

“It’s really hard to talk about how much work we’ve put in, but we’ve been doing some big changes and riding a lot throughout the week, some really, really late days. And they’re paying off right now; we’re heading in the right direction. We’re all pulling on the same string, and that helps me out big time.”