In his first F1 test, Colton Herta impresses McLaren team over two days at Portimao

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McLaren F1 Team
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Driving a Formula One car for the first time, Colton Herta impressed the McLaren team during a two-day F1 test at the Portimao circuit in Portugal.

The Andretti Autosport NTT IndyCar Series driver completed 162 laps Monday and Tuesday in a 2021 McLaren MCL35M at the 4.653-kilometer road course where F1 raced in 2020-21. Though no lap times were provided (the team and driver both said varying conditions would have made comparison difficult), McLaren F1 Team principal Andreas Seidl said Herta excelled at adapting to a car that is faster, more powerful and an upgrade in technological sophistication over his full-time IndyCar ride.

“I have to say the team was quite impressed how Colton was dealing with all these challenges and with his professional approach,” Seidl said. “ His physical preparation was enabling him to keep going throughout the two days knowing how challenging this can be in a Formula one car on a track like Portimao. In the end, his approach allowed him to build pace gradually and confidence. And finding the right balance between taking risks and still keeping the car on track.”

Seidl said the team put Herta through the paces with race simulation runs, varying tire compounds and fuel loads and also focusing on different driving techniques.

Herta ended the test with the confidence he can be an F1 driver – and he’s hoping he left the same impression with McLaren, even though it wasn’t the initial goal of the test.

“It’s hard to get in a race car and not drive it as fast as you possibly can,” Herta said. “That was the goal of getting over here was get acclimated, get up to speed and really see what I can do in a race car. It was a lot of fun. It was super special to drive and handled beautifully. I was able to make some setup adjustments in the afternoon and get it more to my liking. You really want to impress people with how fast you can drive a race car no matter what the circumstances.

“(F1) is a goal of mine and has been for a while now. … It’s been amazing. All the engineers have been great at getting me up to speed. Which was the biggest thing. I wanted to see what these cars were all about, and luckily, McLaren was able to give me that chance.”

Said Seidl: “The team will go into data and detail to get an initial idea of the potential Colton has shown in our car. And then we’ll have quite a picture and good idea. That will be part of our evaluation as well as to what next potential steps could look like.”

It’s believed McLaren will have an open ride in 2024 with drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris signed through at least 2023.

“As always here at McLaren, we take it step by step,” Seidl said when asked if Herta was a candidate to drive for the team in ’24. “The objective for this test was to give Colton the chance to experience a Formula One car for the first time and explore its performance. That was the focus. What comes next is something we take step by step. Take our time as well. That’s where we are.”

Herta, 22, has made no secret of his desire to race Formula One. He signed an extension last year through the 2023 season with Andretti Autosport, which intended to field him in F1 before its deal to acquire a team fell through last fall. IndyCar team owner Michael Andretti has indicated he would move Herta to F1 if his bid was successful to land an F1 team in 2024.

In March, McLaren signed Herta to its “Testing of Previous Cars” program, a new F1 regulation that allows teams practice sessions with 1-year-old cars to help evaluate potential drivers and young talent for the future.

Per F1 rules, McLaren is required to field an F1 rookie twice in Friday practice sessions. Seidl said McLaren was evaluating which rookies to use at race weekends after F1’s summer break.

Another possibility for FP1 time would be Arrow McLaren SP IndyCar driver Pato O’Ward, who tested a McLaren F1 car for the first time last year at Abu Dhabi.

Colton Herta did 162 laps and more than 750 kilometers during two days of testing a 2021 McLaren F1 car at Portimao (McLaren F1 Team).

“Further test opportunities for Pato, we are evaluating at the moment,” Seidl said. “He had a good test with us last year in Abu Dhabi. We were very happy as well with how he was preparing himself for that test and performing throughout the test. We’re happy with what both guys have shown so far.”

Herta said he was open to trying Friday practice sessions but preferred the TPC test days because “you get the whole track to yourself and all this time inside the car that obviously in 60 minutes of FP1 you wouldn’t get. It would be cool to get a taste of the 2022 cars and see how they compare to this car. I’d be up for it.”

Herta said he was most struck by the “incredible” amount of torque in an F1 car compared to IndyCar.

“That was the biggest thing for me,” he said. “The straight-line speed, the acceleration and the braking. Obviously, the cornering speeds were higher than in an Indy car, but it didn’t stick out to me as much as how impressive the acceleration and how easy it was with all this horsepower to put the throttle down.

“It is a completely different feel. The feeling you get from Indy car is way different because of the lack of power steering. So the overall kickback and smoothness of the wheel doesn’t really (compare) to what you’d get in a grand prix car. That was something to get used to, slowing down the hands, the speeds are a lot higher on the road courses. Overall it was good to get a feeling and a taste of what these things can do. I felt comfortable right away, the biggest thing was putting a corner or lap together.”

Working through aerodynamic and mechanical adjustments, the California native was impressed by the enhanced tools that F1 drivers use in the cockpit to adjust handling on the fly.

“It was pretty cool to see the balance changes, and what you could do inside the car, which was quite a bit more than what we were able to do inside the Indy car,” he said. “So it was awesome, if you have a problem in one corner, you can adjust it at the flick of a finger.

“It’s hard to say where you rank up against these guys when you’re doing a testing program like this in a year-old car. But as far as how comfortable I got, I did get really comfortable and could feel the limit. Maybe not the consistency that would come with a few more days. But I felt like I was close.”

Chase Sexton wins Triple Crown Anaheim 2 Supercross: Levi Kitchen unseats Jett Lawrence in 250s

Supercross Anaheim 2
Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media

Chase Sexton won two of the three races in the Monster Energy Supercross Anaheim 2 Triple Crown, which was enough to overcome a fifth-place finish in Race 2 and give him the overall victory. It was the second Supercross win of his career.

“Super big night for me,” Sexton told NBC Sports’ Will Christien. “After last weekend with that being a struggle, I just need to come out here and stop the bleeding a little bit and I did that tonight.”

Sexton suffered a crash on Lap 1 of his heat, sending him into Last Chance Qualifier. The bad gate pick put him in a difficult position to start the race and he was able to climb to only fifth at the checkers.

At Anaheim 2, three riders entered the final race of the Triple Crown in a winner-take-all scenario. Sexton, Jason Anderson and Eli Tomac each had a shot at victory. It raised the intensity level for all riders in an evening that featured a lot of comers and goers.

Jason Anderson took the early lead in Race 3, which set him up for the overall victory. Sexton stalked and passed him midway through the race and then a minor mistake late allowed Webb to slip around as well. Anderson’s 5-1-3 gave him second overall.

“I had a tough couple of rounds, getting off that Anaheim 1 crash and then last week weekend I fumbled a little bit, but I’m excited to get back on the box and start moving forward,” Anderson told Jason Thomas.

Anderson finished seventh in the first two rounds of 2023.

RESULTS: How they finished for the 450 Main in Anaheim 2

Ken Roczen was the model of consistency in the opening rounds and at Anaheim 2. In three races so far this year, he’s gotten progressively better each time with a fifth in A1, a fourth last week in San Deigo and a third this week.

With results of 2-3-4, he earned his first podium of the season, which lands him fourth in the standings.

“This was hard earned,” Roczen said after the race. “I completely botched the start and then to have to work my way up. I only happen on the very last lap to step up here on the podium.”

Webb’s solid second-place finish in the third race allowed him to leapfrog several riders and finish fourth overall, but a seventh in Race 1 kept him off the podium. He improved in each race in Anaheim, however, with a 7-4-2.

With a 4-6-5, Dylan Ferrandis rounded out the top five.

The intensity of the race was a little too much for Tomac.

While battling side-by-side with Webb in Race 3 at the one-third mark, Tomac jumped wide and crashed hard. He fell to 14th, doing some damage to his bike in the process. He advanced only one position in that race to 13th. His first two races, a third and second, were strong enough to give him sixth overall. He retains the points lead, but it has shrunk to a gap of only four over Sexton and Webb.

Malcolm Stewart injured late in the week and was not able to mount.

Levi Kitchen became the first rider to unseat Jett Lawrence in the Triple Crown format at Anaheim 2 and won the overall with consistency. In his three races, Kitchen finished 4-2-2 to narrowly edge the winner of the first two races.

“This whole day; this is unbelievable. I took a few good slams in practice and I was down on myself,” Kitchen told NBC Sports Jason Thomas afterward. “The first moto I got a good start and got shuffled back, then I knew I just needed to be consistent.”

Jett Lawrence saved his best for last – which wasn’t hard given the struggles he experienced in the first two races.

Despite those problems, he entered Race 3 of the Triple Crown three points behind Kitchen after suffering a pair of disappointing races by his personal measuring stick. In the first and second 250 races of the night, Lawrence hit the ground. He dropped to the final rider in the running order in Race 2 with a Lap 1 fall. But in both races, he was able to overcome his mistake and close the gap so that he had a chance to take his first Triple Crown win of his career.

Click here for full 250 West Main Results

Lawrence rode to third in Race 1 and sixth in Race 2. In the final race of the night, Lawrence did all he could. He earned the holeshot, but when Kitchen fell in behind him, Lawrence’s fate was sealed. His 3-6-1 tied him in points with Stilez Robertson, but the tiebreaker goes to the final round and his win secured second-place.

“I can definitely say Triple Crowns are not my thing,” Lawrence told NBC Sports Will Christien. “We have one more to try and fix this, so hopefully we can get that done.”

Lawrence will move into the 450 class for the Lucas Oil Motocross outdoor season and his 250 record book will be closed.

The best news for Lawrence is the other riders who entered this round in the top three had a worse night, so Lawrence leaves Anaheim with a 16-point gap on Cameron McAdoo and 17 over RJ Hampshire.

Roberston finished 6-1-3 to take the final step of the podium.

“Getting that win in the second Main meant a lot,” Roberston told Thomas. “I wish I could have done a little better in the third one, but we’re still up here on the box.”

Mitchell Oldenburg used consistency to earn fourth in the overall. He finished 5-4-6.

After missing the Main last week in San Diego, Max Vohland finished 7-8-4 to round out the top five.

RJ Hampshire set himself up as the early favorite with his Race 1 win. In Race 2, it all fell apart. He fell in the sand section and damaged his bike, finishing last in that race. The final event of the night for the 250s provided only a 13th-place finish, leaving Hampshire deep in the points.

Cameron McAdoo hard crash in qualification, which was scary news for a team that has seen three of their riders sidelined with injury. McAdoo was never quite able to get his rhythm with an 8-7-5.

2023 Race Recaps

San Diego: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence double down
Anaheim 1: Tomac wins opener for the first time

Anaheim 2 coverage

Power Rankings Week 2
SuperMotocross tightens playoff schedule
Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence go two-for-two in San Diego
Results and points after San Diego
Seth Hammaker to miss 250 E season opener with wrist injury
Jo Shimoda joins Seth Hammaker, Austin Forkner with injury
Injury sidelines Austin Forkner for remainder of 2023 SX