Will we see Colton Herta on the grid in 2023? The IndyCar driver, who took the wheel of a McLaren MCL35M at Portimão last month, is at the heart of rumors about an AlphaTauri wheel, should he be abandoned by Pierre Gasly to join Alpine. However, a major obstacle stands between Herta and F1: the Super License. Forty points are required to qualify for this compulsory « driver’s license » to drive in the Grand Prix, and Herta will not have them at the start of the 2023 season.
In fact, Herta is not far off the required total, with Indycar races having a relatively large weight in the Super License points table. Following the measures taken during the COVID pandemic, drivers can currently count their three best results from the four seasons preceding their application, i.e. from 2019 to 2022 if Herta were to race in F1 next year. The American earned four points for his seventh-place finish in IndyCar in 2019, 20 for his third-place finish in 2020, and eight for his fifth-place finish in 2021, for a total of 32.
Today, two meetings from the end of the 2022 season, Herta is in tenth place and can hope to move up to eighth position, which will not count as one of its three best results.
The 2022 IndyCar season has been tough for Colton Herta, who led in five events but won just one.
Herta can also earn an additional point for any Free Practice 1 session completed in F1, as long as he accumulates more than 100 km and does not collect any penalty points. Up to ten points can be earned this way but, due to the clash between the IndyCar Final and the Italian Grand Prix on the weekend of September 10-11, Herta could in theory only take part in the six last EL1 of the season, which would take him to 38 points.
However, the FIA has given itself a certain leeway for this type of situation. A clause in the International Sporting Code provides that a Super License may be granted to a driver who « scored a minimum of 30 Super License points » and having been « deemed unable, at the sole discretion of the FIA, [de se plier aux critères requis] due to circumstances beyond its control or force majeure.
Force majeure could be particularly useful for Herta if it applies for a full Super License, and not the version used for EL1s, already this year as this would include the 2018 to 2021 seasons.
Herta finished second in the Indy Lights Championship in 2018, a performance that should, in theory, net him 12 points. However, the championship had only seven regular entrants that year, which is not enough to score Super License points, according to FIA criteria. However, if the federation decided to validate these points, for example by justifying that this low number of participants was beyond Herta’s control, its total points would reach 40.
Having an American driver on the grid is in F1’s interest given the championship’s growth across the Atlantic and the recent additions of Grands Prix in Miami and Las Vegas to the calendar. Nevertheless, the FIA will have to be careful not to create a precedent by circumventing its own regulations to allow Herta to race in the premier class in 2023.
Additionally, teams running a young driver academy and spending heavily to enable their students to rack up Super License points in Formula 3 and Formula 2 will also be keen to see strict enforcement of the regulations. A player in the paddock, closely associated with the junior drivers, told Motorsport.com : « Whether [Herta] gets a license, you might as well stop investing in F3 and F2. »