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Formula 1

Alfa Romeo’s strong start to F1 2022 ‘burns a little’ – Herta

by Jack Benyon
4 min read

Colton Herta says it “burns” to see how well Alfa Romeo is performing in Formula 1 this year, after he missed out on a seat for this season when Andretti failed to buy the Sauber-run outfit.

Herta – who has now earned a McLaren F1 junior deal that involves track time – was linked to an F1 seat for much of 2021, and a deal for Michael Andretti and his investment group to purchase Sauber’s F1 team and slot Herta in was “closer than people know” and fell apart over who controlled what stake in the team.

A renewed Andretti bid to start his own team in F1 for 2024 has given him and Herta fresh hope, but clearly Alfa’s double-points finish in the season opener and its sixth in the constructors’ championship ahead of the third round in Australia this weekend has been noticed.

“It burns a little now, seeing how good they are this year, but it wasn’t meant to be,” Herta told Indy Star in an exclusive interview.

“And honestly, it’s a good thing it didn’t happen and a good thing they didn’t try to push it anymore.”

Colton Herta Andretti IndyCar

Herta added: “Michael and Dan [Towriss] did everything they should have in that situation, but you can’t force it. It wasn’t a good deal, so props to them for stepping away from it.

“It’s almost like buying a house, and someone out-bids you by $10,000, and you just can’t do it.

“Michael got screwed out of that deal.”

In the same interview it’s claimed that Herta hired a film crew to film at Long Beach as a personal keepsake as a sign of how sure the 21-year-old was that the IndyCar season finale were to be his last race in the series for the foreseeable future.

Instead, he has raced on and lies seventh in the points after a fourth at St Petersburg, which came despite a recurring fuelling problem, and a 12th at Texas after a wheel remained stuck to his car in a pitstop.

Colton Herta Andretti IndyCar

Herta claims there was a third team involved in the Andretti/Alfa Romeo deal back in 2021, in that he could have tested for Ferrari to get seat time at Fiorano.

“In the end, I don’t think Ferrari even had a car ready, but they’d said ‘let’s see if we can do it,’ ” said Herta.

“I might have had contracts sent to me. It was really [expletive] close – closer than people know.

“But then it all started to crumble.”

Instead Herta’s chances seemingly lie between McLaren and Andretti for 2024. Andretti needs until then to get the team accepted by F1/the FIA and set up, while McLaren has Daniel Ricciardo under contract through the 2023 season, meaning both opportunities would likely arise at the same time if at all.

“If [Ricciardo] continues to build, I probably won’t have that opportunity, but hopefully Lando kicks his ass a bit more, so I can at least have a shot,” added Herta.

“Obviously I’d never wish down on someone. I’m not praying for his downfall.

Daniel Ricciardo McLaren F1

“If he does well, great for him – he deserves the seat.

“I guess it’s all in his hands for the future, but part of me does kinda hope I get the opportunity, at least a little foot in the door to maybe show what I can do.”

Norris and Herta have teamed up before when the duo raced for Carlin in the 2015 MSA Formula Championship in the UK, where Herta finished third and Norris was champion.

McLaren’s CEO Zak Brown, who Herta says is “cutthroat” but “I know he’d give me a fair shot”, has been an admirer of what Herta has achieved in IndyCar in the last three years and is keen to evaluate the American driver.

How Herta leapfrogged O’Ward in the McLaren queue

Patricio O'Ward McLaren F1

A matter of weeks ago it would have appeared likely Herta was behind Pato O’Ward in McLaren’s queue for a 2024 seat.

O’Ward, who beat Herta to the 2018 Indy Lights championship, tested a McLaren F1 car last November in Abu Dhabi and drives for the team’s IndyCar set-up which he has almost single-handedly brought into championship contention in 2020 and won its first races last season.

However two weeks ago O’Ward admitted he is looking at his options outside of Arrow McLaren SP past the end of this season, which bizarrely Brown addressed as unfounded rumour despite O’Ward himself being the source of the speculation by raising questions over his future.

O’Ward hasn’t given the exact reason for his intention to assess his options but said he owes it to himself to find the best and fair deal for his future as his next contract will take him into his prime years.

A clear rift – not apparently between O’Ward and the immediate IndyCar team management, with team president Taylor Kiel giving an impassioned pitch in favour of keeping the driver – with McLaren means uncertainty surrounds O’Ward and how he fits into the team’s plans.

He can look elsewhere for next season but there is a clause in his contract that McLaren can offer around 80% of any rival bids to trigger a contract extension with the driver.

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