Deal bringing Colton Herta to F1 is in place for the 2023 season, Red Bull adviser says

AUTO: AUG 19 IndyCar - World Wide Technology Raceway
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PORTLAND, Oregon — McLaren supports Colton Herta receiving an exemption to compete in Formula One next season, and Red Bull adviser Helmut Marko says a deal is in place to bring the American to the 2023 grid.

Any deal would be contingent on Herta, a 22-year-old IndyCar star from California, receiving an exemption from F1’s governing body for the Super License required to compete, Marko told SiriusXM.

“Astonishingly enough, all of the parties and teams involved, we found an agreement,” Marko said. “First we have to get a definite answer (from the FIA) and I think it should be by Monza,” site of the next F1 race.

The Dutch Grand Prix was rife with rumors and speculation that Herta is in line for a seat in 2023 with AlphaTauri, the junior team for Red Bull.

That created spirited debate over the rules for licensing a driver and if Herta, winner of seven races over four IndyCar seasons, should be considered for an FIA exemption. Andretti Autosport teammate Romain Grosjean, an F1 veteran, tweeted Saturday that Herta deserves a Super License.

McLaren head Zak Brown told The Associated Press the team is in favor of the FIA clearing Herta to compete. Herta is under an IndyCar contract with Andretti Autosport through 2023 but has an F1 contract with McLaren through 2024.

Herta tested for McLaren in Portugal over two days in July and has been on the McLaren simulator.

“We have had Colton in our simulator and our F1 car for testing and are probably in a better position than anyone to give an opinion,” Brown said. “Our opinion is that he would be a great addition to the F1 grid and is very deserving of a Super License.”

Drivers need to accumulate 40 points to obtain a Super License based on their best three performances over the previous four seasons. The FIA does not govern IndyCar or NASCAR, and as such, America’s top racing series don’t rate highly in the licensing system.

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. Herta headed into Sunday’s race at Portland International Raceway, the penultimate race on the IndyCar schedule, with one victory this year and ranked a career-low 10th in the standings.

But that McLaren was willing to publicly back Herta on an issue unrelated to its own immediate needs likely indicates that a multiteam agreement is in the works to get Herta onto the F1 grid. The last American to race in F1 was Alexander Rossi in 2015.

Under the likely negotiations referenced by Marko:

– Herta would be released from any commitments to McLaren, which on Friday won the rights to Alpine reserve driver Oscar Piastri.

– Alpine wants Pierre Gasly released from AlphaTauri, which would open the seat for Herta and give Alpine a replacement for Piastri, who was supposed to replace Fernando Alonso until the young Australian driver instead chose McLaren.

– Alpine would release Piastri before the end of 2022 so that McLaren can begin working with him before Jan. 1, in exchange for McLaren giving up all its rights to Herta to get the multiteam driver movement in motion.

Herta, for his part, previously told the AP that he’s aware of all the speculation surrounding him but doesn’t want to even think about his options until after next Sunday’s season finale at Laguna Seca, where he’s the two-time defending race winner.

His father, former driver Bryan Herta, handles his management and Herta said he told his dad to not discuss 2023 with him until after the IndyCar season ends. Bryan Herta respected those wishes before Sunday’s race at Portland and shook his head, saying “Nope, nope, nope,” as an AP reporter approached.

Bryan Herta said he had heard about Marko’s comment that a deal had been reached for his son to drive for Red Bull’s junior team.

“A lot of people say a lot of things,” Bryan Herta said. “I’ve got nothing to say at this time.”

Strong rebounds for Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi amid some disappointments in the Indy 500


INDIANAPOLIS – Alex Palou had not turned a wheel wrong the entire Month of May at the Indy 500 until Rinus VeeKay turned a wheel into the Chip Ganassi Racing pole-sitter leaving pit road on Lap 94.

“There is nothing I could have done there,” Palou told NBC Sports. “It’s OK, when it is my fault or the team’s fault because everybody makes mistakes. But when there is nothing, you could have done differently there, it feels bad and feels bad for the team.”

Marcus Ericsson was a master at utilizing the “Tail of the Dragon” move that breaks the draft of the car behind him in the closing laps to win last year’s Indianapolis 500. On Sunday, however, the last of three red flags in the final 16 laps of the race had the popular driver from Sweden breathing fire after Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden beat him at his own game on the final lap to win the Indianapolis 500.

Despite the two disappointments, team owner Chip Ganassi was seen on pit road fist-bumping a member on his four-car team in this year’s Indianapolis 500 after his drivers finished second, fourth, sixth and seventh in the tightly contested race.

Those are pretty good results, but at the Indianapolis 500, there is just one winner and 32 losers.

“There is only one winner, but it was a hell of a show,” three-time Indianapolis 500 winner and Chip Ganassi Racing consultant Dario Franchitti told NBC Sports. “Alex was very fast, and he got absolutely caught out in somebody else’s wreck. There was nothing he could have done, but he and the 10 car, great recovery.

“Great recovery by all four cars because at half distance, we were not looking very good.”

After 92 laps, the first caution flew for Sting Ray Robb of Dale Coyne Racing hitting the Turn 1 wall.

During pit stops on Lap 94, Palou had left his stall when the second-place car driven by VeeKay ran into him, putting Palou’s Honda into the wall. The car sustained a damaged front wing, but the Chip Ganassi crew was able to get him back in the race on the lead lap but in 28th position.

Palou ultimately would fight his way to a fourth-place finish in a race the popular Spaniard could have won. His displeasure with VeeKay, whom he sarcastically called “a legend” on his team radio after the incident, was evident.

“The benefit of being on pole is you can drive straight and avoid crashes, and he was able to crash us on the side on pit lane, which is pretty tough to do, but he managed it,” Palou told NBC Sports. “Hopefully next year we are not beside him. Hopefully, next year we have a little better luck.”

Palou started on the pole and led 36 laps, just three fewer than race leader Pato O’Ward of Arrow McLaren Racing.

“We started really well, was managing the fuel as we wanted, our car was pretty good,” Palou said. “Our car wasn’t great, we dropped to P4 or P5, but we still had some good stuff.

“On the pit stop, the 21 (VeeKay) managed to clip us. Nothing we could have done there. It was not my team’s fault or my fault.

“We had to drop to the end. I’m happy we made it back to P4. We needed 50 more laps to make it happen, but it could have been a lot worse after that contact.

“I learned a lot, running up front at the beginning and in mid-pack and then the back. I learned a lot.

“It feels amazing when you win it and not so good when things go wrong. We were a bit lucky with so many restarts at the end to make it back to P4 so I’m happy with that.”

Palou said the front wing had to be changed and the toe-in was a bit off, but he still had a fast car.

In fact, his Honda was the best car at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway all month. His pole-winning four lap average speed of 234.217 miles per hour around the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway was a record for this fabled race.

Palou looked good throughout the race, before he had to scratch and claw and race his way back to the top-five after he restarted 28th.

In the Indianapolis 500, however, the best car doesn’t always win.

“It’s two years in a row that we were leading the race at the beginning and had to drop to last,” Palou said. “Maybe next year, we will start in the middle of the field and go on to win the race.

“I know he didn’t do it on purpose. It’s better to let that pass someday.”

Palou said the wild racing at the end was because the downforce package used in Sunday’s race means the drivers have to be aggressive. The front two cars can battle for the victory, but cars back in fourth or fifth place can’t help determine the outcome of the race.

That is when the “Tail of the Dragon” comes into the play.

Franchitti helped celebrate Ericsson’s win in 2022 with his “Tail of the Dragon” zigzag move – something he never had to do in any of his three Indianapolis 500 victories because they all finished under caution.

In 2023, however, IndyCar Race Control wants to make every attempt to finish the race under green, without going past the scheduled distance like NASCAR’s overtime rule.

Instead of extra laps, they stop the race with a red flag, to create a potential green-flag finish condition.

“You do what you have to do to win within the rules, and it’s within the rules, so you do it,” Franchitti said. “The race is 200 laps and there is a balance.

“Marcus did a great job on that restart and so did Josef. It was just the timing of who was where and that was it.

“If you knew it was going to go red, you would have hung back on the lap before.

“Brilliant job by the whole Ganassi organization because it wasn’t looking very good at half-distance.

“Full marks to Josef Newgarden and Team Penske.”

Franchitti is highly impressed by how well Ericsson works with CGR engineer Brad Goldberg and how close this combination came to winning the Indianapolis 500 two-years-in-a-row.

It would have been the first back-to-back Indy 500 winner since Helio Castroneves in 2001 and 2002.

“Oh, he’s a badass,” Franchitti said Ericsson. “He proved it last year. He is so calm all day. What more do you need? As a driver, he’s fast and so calm.”

Ericsson is typically in good spirits and jovial.

He was stern and direct on pit road after the race.

“I did everything right, I did an awesome restart, caught Josef off-guard and pulled away,” Ericsson said on pit lane. “It’s hard to pull away a full lap and he got me back.

“I’m mostly disappointed with the way he ended. I don’t think it was fair and safe to do that restart straight out of the pits on cold tires for everyone.

“To me, it was not a good way to end that race.

“Congrats to Josef. He didn’t do anything wrong. He is a worthy champion, but it shouldn’t have ended like that.”

Palou also didn’t understand the last restart, which was a one-start showdown.

“I know that we want to finish under green,” Palou said. “Maybe the last restart I did, I didn’t understand. It didn’t benefit the CGR team.

“I’m not very supportive of the last one, but anyway.”

Dixon called the red flags “a bit sketchy.”

“The Red Flags have become a theme to the end of the race, but sometimes they can catch you out,” Dixon said. “I know Marcus is frustrated with it.

“All we ask for is consistency. I think they will do better next time.

“It’s a tough race. People will do anything they can to win it and with how these reds fall, you have to be in the right place at the right time. The problem is when they throw a Red or don’t throw a Red dictates how the race will end.

“It’s a bloody hard race to win. Congrats to Josef Newgarden and to Team Penske.”

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500