Colton Herta status prompts Super License debate amongst Formula One teams

Colton Herta Super License
McLaren F1 Team

Colton Herta is under consideration for rides throughout the Formula One paddock, prompting debate on the American’s ability to obtain the Super License required to compete in the global series.

The 22-year-old Californian and IndyCar star frequently has been mentioned as a candidate for a seat next season with AlphaTauri. A sticking point continues to be Herta’s lack of a Super License and speculation that F1’s governing body may consider granting Herta an exemption.

That idea received pushback from team principals at the Dutch Grand Prix.

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“You have to keep in mind that when we made the decision about the Super License and the points, it was to protect F1 and the drivers, to avoid having 10 drivers coming in F1 with big budgets and no results in the past and taking 50% of the grid,” Alfa Romeo team principal Fred Vasseur said Saturday. “We did it on purpose. And I think it was a good decision.”

Drivers need to accumulate 40 points to obtain a Super License based on their best three performances over the previous four seasons. Herta is expected to have just 32 points ahead of 2023, and although he can gain points by participating in F1 practice sessions, he doesn’t currently have any sessions scheduled this year even though he’s got a testing contract with McLaren.

Either way, he’s not expected to hit the 40-point mark and there’s debate on whether the International Automobile Federation (FIA) could apply force majeure to grant Herta a Super License.

“From my point of view it has nothing to do with force majeure,” Vasseur said. “Now, if the FIA wants to stop the process of the points and the Super License, that’s another story. They can do it, it’s up to them to decide if they want to stop the system. And we can survive without the system. But it’s nothing to do for me with force majeure.”

Vasseur has more information on Herta’s status than others because Michael Andretti attempted to purchase Alfa last season and put Herta in one of the seats.

“We had discussions last year with Andretti. It’s not a secret. Herta was on the table, and he was not eligible for a Super License at this stage,” Vasseur said.

At issue is that the FIA does not govern IndyCar and thus doesn’t rate it as highly as other global series – making it more difficult for IndyCar drivers to earn a Super License. The IndyCar grid currently boasts former F1 drivers Romain Grosjean, Marcus Ericsson and Alexander Rossi, whose 2015 season marked the last time an American was on the F1 grid.

Callum Ilott and Christian Lundgaard, both fighting for rookie of the year, came from the European junior ranks and Ilott was in the Ferrari pipeline.

Haas boss Guenther Steiner said he was not part of the process that designed the current rules but would be willing to listen to proposals on overhauling the licensing system.

“I don’t want to be sitting here and saying, `Oh, an IndyCar race, we know it’s as good as this.’ You cannot compare it,” Steiner said. “If we want to change the rule, let’s discuss it, you know, and then fix it for the future if you think it’s wrong. But there needs to be an agreement between the stakeholders in it.”

Steiner, who also said the team remains undecided on if it will re-sign Mick Schumacher, noted that the lack of Super License has kept Herta off of Haas’ list of prospects. The Haas team is owned by American businessman Gene Haas and run partly out of its North Carolina campus shared with its NASCAR team.

“He’s not on the list at the moment because he hasn’t got the Super License,” said Steiner, who added that Haas is considering only drivers with F1 experience. “In the moment, we look more to somebody who has been already in F1, so therefore, (Herta) didn’t make the list and he hasn’t got the Super License.”

McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl worked with Herta in July in a two-day test in Portugal in which Herta impressed in his preparation and on-track performance. It was that test that perhaps raised the level of interest in bringing him to F1, and Seidl said McLaren was open to adjusting the licensing system.

McLaren currently runs an IndyCar program that will expand to three teams next year.

“I think the IndyCar championship is a high quality, very competitive championship with top drivers and therefore I think there’s no reason why we shouldn’t make sure that competitive drivers over there cannot switch to Formula One,” Seidl said. “Absolutely open for some flexibility there in handing a guy like Colton the Super License, because at the end of it, what he has shown so far in his racing career, I have no doubt that he is absolutely able to compete in F1.”

2023 MotoGP schedule announced, highlighted by trips to India and Kazakhstan

2023 MotoGP schedule
Hasan Bratic / Getty Images

A new opening venue and the addition of two Grands Prix in India and Kazakhstan will highlight the 2023 MotoGP schedule.

The 2023 MotoGP season will kick off March 24th with the opening round in Portugal instead of the typical trip to Qatar. Work on the Losail International Circuit pushed their date back to the penultimate weekend after the series finishes a series of races around the Pacific Rim.

Following Portugal, MotoGP heads to Argentina and the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas for their only visit to the United States before heading back to Europe for most of the next 10 rounds.

Interrupting the long European stint will be the series’ first visit to the Sokol International Circuit in Kazakhstan on July 7, 2023. The traditional summer break will be three weeks and then MotoGP heads to England for the British GP in August.

After three more European rounds at Austria, Catalunya and San Marino, the second new date on the calendar will come on the 16-turn, Buddh International Circuit for a September 24 race date. Both the India and Kazakhstan races are subject to homologation and approval by the circuit.

The next six races will be held in Asia and Oceania before Qatar and Valencia close out the schedule.

“We’re very proud to announce that Buddh International Circuit will be on the 2023 calendar,” said Carmelo Ezpeleta, CEO of Dorna, which manages the series. “We have a lot of fans in India and we’re excited to be able to bring the sport to them.

“India is also a key market for the motorcycle industry and therefore, by extension, for MotoGP as the pinnacle of the two-wheeled world. We very much look forward to racing at Buddh International Circuit and can’t wait to welcome the fans through the gates to see this incredible sport in person.”

One of two new races announced for 2022, in Finland, did not materialize this season and has not been added to the 2023 MotoGP schedule. In addition, the Aragon GP has been removed to keep the rounds at 21.

2023 Provisional Schedule

Portugal GP, Algarve, March 26
Argentina GP, Termas de Río Hondo, April 2
American GP, Circuit of the Americas, April 16
Spanish GP, Jerez, April 30
French GP, Le Mans, May 14
Italian GP, Mugello, June 11
German GP, Sachsenring, June 18
Dutch GP, Assen, June 25
Kazakhstan GP, Sokol, July 9 *
British GP, Silverstone, August 6
Austrian GP, Red Bull Ring, August 20
Catalan GP, Catalunya, September 3
San Marino GP, Misano, September 10
Indian GP, Buddh, September 24 *
Japanese GP, Motegi, October 1
Indonesia GP, Mandalika Street Circuit, October 15
Australian GP, Philip Island, October 22
Thailand GP, Chang International Circuit, October 29
Malaysian GP, Sepang, November 12
Qatar GP, Losail International Circuit, November 19
Valencia GP, Ricardo Tormo, November 26

* subject to approval