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

Colton Herta F1 Andretti
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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.”

AJ Foyt Racing promotes Benjamin Pedersen from Indy Lights to IndyCar for 2023 season

Benjamin Pedersen AJ Foyt
AJ Foyt Racing
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Benjamin Pedersen is the first driver to land a promotion from Indy Lights into IndyCar for next season as AJ Foyt Racing confirmed Wednesday he’ll be part of its 2023 lineup.

Pedersen, a 23-year-old dual citizen of Denmark and the United States, spent last season running the full Indy Lights schedule for HMD Motorsports. Linus Lundqvist, his teammate, won the Lights title, and Pedersen finished fifth in the final standings. Pedersen earned his only win earlier this month when he led every lap from the pole at Portland.

Pedersen also ran four races for HMD in 2021 with back-to-back runner-up finishes in his debut. Pedersen landed on AJ Foyt Racing team president Larry Foyt’s radar through a “trusted colleague” and Pedersen spent most of last season shadowing the IndyCar team.

His promotion to IndyCar comes ahead of all four drivers who finished ahead of him in the Indy Lights standings, including champion Lundqvist.

“We are really looking forward to having Benjamin as part of the team,” Larry Foyt said. “His enthusiasm is infectious, and he is 100 percent committed to IndyCar, AJ Foyt Racing, and doing the best he can to win races.

“It’s been great to have him embedded with the team this past season, and everyone is excited to hit the ground running when testing begins. It is also great to have a multi-year program in place, which will help him and the team grow together.”

Foyt did not announce a car number for Pedersen. Kyle Kirkwood spent his rookie season driving AJ Foyt’s flagship No. 14 but Kirkwood is moving to Andretti Autosport. The team has not yet announced if Dalton Kellett will return for a fourth season, and a third car for Tatiana Calderon was pulled from competition after seven races because of sponsorship non-payment. Shutting down Calderon’s team removed the only semi-regular female driver from the IndyCar field.

Pedersen, however, was signed to an agreement Foyt said “spans multiple seasons as the team plans to develop the young rookie and is aligned to a longer-term plan for AJ Foyt Racing.”

Pedersen was born in Copenhagen but raised in Seattle and currently lives in Indianapolis. He said his time shadowing the IndyCar team has given him a jump on his rookie preparations.

“I’ve spent a lot of time this season with AJ Foyt Racing learning the ins and outs of making the jump to IndyCar and it’s been really nice to do that in conjunction with my Indy Lights season,” Pedersen said. “IndyCar has been my target goal since I started open wheel racing in 2016. The racing, atmosphere, fans, events, tracks, etc. are all awesome.”