Colton Herta says he’s tuning out reports about possibly joining AlphaTauri in F1

Colton Herta AlphaTauri
Brian Spurlock/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
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PORTLAND, Oregon — Colton Herta receives a buzz on his phone alerting him every time his name is linked to a Formula One seat next season with AlphaTauri.

The speculation is so rampant that Herta said Friday he’s stopped reading the reports. He’s also informed his father, who acts as his agent, not to brief him on any discussions and leave him alone to finish the final two races of the IndyCar season.

“There’s nothing I want to talk about right now. I just want to focus on these last two weekends and have a little bit of time to decompress and figure out what’s going on during the offseason,” Herta told The Associated Press. “I told my dad, he’s been handling all my management things, I told him ‘I don’t want to talk about it, I don’t want to deal with it, I just want to finish the season.’

“And then we’ll look at the options and see if I have any.”

The 22-year-old Californian is considered the top candidate to become the first American on the F1 grid since Alexander Rossi in 2015. Herta has a testing contract with McLaren and in July took part in a two-day test for the team at Portimao in Portugal.

He’s got nothing else lined up at this time and McLaren officially won the rights to F2 champion Oscar Piastri when F1’s contract review board ruled Friday that the Australian is free to leave Alpine. Piastri will be teammates with Lando Norris for McLaren next season and that officially closed one option for Herta.

Herta has one year remaining on his IndyCar contract with Andretti Autosport, but team owner Michael Andretti has said he’d not hold his young driver back from an F1 opportunity. However, Andretti is trying to land his own F1 team to be built around Herta and was close last year to a deal to acquire Alfa Romeo Racing.

When that deal fell apart, Andretti shifted his focus toward asking F1 to expand its grid to an additional two Andretti Global entries for 22 cars among 11 teams. F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali has said there have been multiple inquiries from interested parties wanting to join the grid.

Now comes speculation that both AlphaTauri might be for sale, giving Andretti another shot at buying an existing team, and that Herta is being eyed for a seat. Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda currently drive for AlphaTauri, but Gasly has been linked to joining Alpine as the replacement for Fernando Alonso.

Herta, who has seven career IndyCar victories and heads into Sunday’s penultimate race of the season ranked a career-low 10th in the series standings, repeated Friday he’s content racing in the United States. He also said he wouldn’t take a seat in F1 just to become an F1 driver.

“It depends on a lot of things. I want to be happy about where I am, where I am living, the team I am with. I just need to be comfortable,” Herta told The AP. “There’s a lot of different factors that go into making a decision of when you do switch teams and it’s nothing I’ve started delving into just yet.

“I wouldn’t just go there to be there. I would need to understand exactly what I was getting into, which I don’t right now. So we just have to wait and see what options really exist for me.”

Herta initially pursued European racing early in his career and moved to England alone as a teenager. But when his opportunities dried up he returned to the United States ahead of the 2017 Indy Lights season and won six races over two seasons.

It’s not been enough to earn him the required points for the license required to compete in F1, and although it has been floated that the FIA may examine his body of work and offer Herta an exemption, he said Friday he has no idea where any of that stands.

“There’s so much being said and speculated, I get the notifications on my phone all day. I just make them all say `Read’ and I don’t even read the articles,” he said. “Honestly, everyone else knows more than I do at this point.”

Herta even declined to speculate on where he might drive in 2023.

“No, no. I mean, I have a contract with Andretti for next year and I don’t have anything else right now,” Herta said. “I think there are some guys in this series, even if they were offered an F1 seat, they wouldn’t want it because they like racing in IndyCar so much. Nobody should be ashamed to be an IndyCar driver.”

Heather Lyne, Dennis Erb Jr. make history in the World of Outlaws Late Model Series

Lyne Erb Outlaws Late
Jacy Norgaard / World of Outlaws
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More than two decades in the making, the pairing of Heather Lyne and Dennis Erb Jr. produced a historical milestone in Dirt Late Model.

Last month, Erb and his long-time crew chief Lyne won their first World of Outlaws Late Model Championship and with this achievement, Lyne became the first female crew chief to win in a national late model series. Their journey together goes back 21 years and tells the story of hard work, persistence and belief in oneself.

After a career-best season with the World of Outlaws, Erb and Lyne secured the points championship at US 36 Raceway in Osborn, Mo. with three races remaining in the season. The consistency and success of their season came down to pinpoint focus. Lyne and Erb are a team of two living out a David vs. Goliath tale. In order to be as successful as possible this year the duo knew they had to do as much as possible with the resources they had.

“It’s always a challenge when you only have two people, both at the racetrack and at the shop,” Lyne told NBC Sports. “I also work full time, so during the day, Dennis has to do a significant amount of work so that when I get down there I can start working and maintaining. It’s planning ahead. It’s having that system in place and making sure that you’re prepared ahead of time.

“When you have a problem at the track, making sure you have all that stuff ready so it’s a quick change and not a lengthy process to make a repair. We had zero DNFs in the World of Outlaws, we had only one DNF out of 96 races [combined among all series].”

Dennis Erb clinched his 2022 championship before the World of Outlaws World Finals. Jacy Norgaard – World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Taming Time

This was not an easy feat. Between a full travel schedule and Lyne’s full-time job as an engineer, time comes at a premium. What they lack in time and resources they made up for in patience and planning.

“We buckled down, and we got all the equipment that we needed back, motors freshened, and things of that nature,” Lyne said about the mid-point of last season. “We were able to keep up with that. We just had a higher focus. I tried to reduce my hours at my day job as much as I possibly could while still maintaining what I need to get done at work. I got rid of a lot of the other distractions and got a more refined system in place at the shop.

“We did certain tasks on certain days so we had time to recover. We were on the road a little bit more, as opposed to coming home to the shop. So we had to be more prepared to stay out on those longer runs. It was just really staying on top of things a little more. It was a heightened sense.”

This was Lyne and Erb’s fourth full season with the Outlaws, but they’ve been on the road together for the last 21 seasons starting in 2001. Their partnership began with Lyne’s bravery. When one door closed, she was quick to open another. In 2001, Lyne’s dad was ready to stop racing. Her mother wanted to regain her weekends, but Lyne knew this was her life path and wasn’t prepared to lose it.

“I’ve always been a tomboy at heart,” Lyne said. “I watched racing with my dad. Growing up he watched NASCAR. In high school, I got tired of playing at the lake house, so I went to the local dirt track and fell in love with it. I just couldn’t get enough. It took a year for me to convince my dad to come to the track with me. He finally did and we sponsored a car that year, the following year he started to race limited cars. He ran hobby stocks and limited late models.”

At some point, Lyne and her father’s level of commitment drifted apart.

“He did it for about five years,” Lyne said. “And then my mom said: ‘I’m done racing. I want my weekends back. It’s just not fun anymore.’ I wasn’t ready to hang up my wenches and Dennis raced out of the same hometown so I, on a dare, went down and introduced myself; told him if you ever need any help, I’ll drill out rivets, I’ll help wash, whatever you need. Twenty-one years later here I am.”

Heather Lyne became the first female crew chief to secure a national touring late model championship in 2022. Paul Arch / World of Outlaws Late Model Series.

Breaking Through

Lyne entered a male-dominated job in a field that is also male-dominated – and where there were few examples of women creating these places for themselves. In this way, Lyne became a blueprint for other women as they strive to find a place for themselves in racing and in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) overall. She has her mother to thank for providing a strong role model, her father for sharing her passion, Erb for taking a chance on an unknow entity and most importantly herself.

“I was raised to believe that I can do anything, I want to do, as long as I put my heart and soul into it.” Lyne replied when asked about role models in the sport growing up. “My parents did not raise me to have that limitation. But from a racing role model perspective, I went in there completely green and just introduced myself to Dennis, the fact that he was brave enough to take that risk and bring a girl to the racetrack. Someone he didn’t know at all speaks volumes for him.”

Lyne and Erb have learned how to survive and succeed with each other on the road. They do this by leveraging decades of combined experience and an ability to adapt to the everchanging landscape of dirt late models. Next year the World of Outlaws visits nearly a dozen new tracks and Lyne sees it as an opportunity for continued success.

“I just want to do it again,” Lyne says going into next season, “I’m looking forward to the competition, I always do. I wouldn’t do it if I wasn’t competitively driven.

“There are some new tracks on the schedule that I’m looking forward to trying for the first time that I haven’t been to myself,” Lyne said of the 2023 season, “Dennis seems to do well on those first timers. We won out at Marion center, we finished second at Bloomsburg. We have a good solid notebook of information to tackle them over the last three years with these rocket race cars that we’re running. It’s good to have that information and leverage it to try some new things.”