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Formula 1

Ferrari’s stern warning to FIA amid Herta F1 licence debate

by Edd Straw, Valentin Khorounzhiy
4 min read

Ferrari Formula 1 boss Mattia Binotto says it would be “completely wrong” to sidestep the FIA superlicence system to permit IndyCar driver Colton Herta’s planned AlphaTauri move for 2023, and says “each single team” will be watching how the governing body handles the situation.

Red Bull wants to place seven-time IndyCar race winner Herta in its sister team AlphaTauri for 2023, but the 22-year-old American does not reach the required criteria under the current superlicence system to take up a seat.

Helmut Marko, Red Bull’s motorsport advisor, said last week that an exemption for Herta would be “nothing unreasonable” given his existing trophy cabinet in IndyCar – but while there are certain concessions in the superlicence system due to COVID-19 as well as ways of getting bonus points outside of pure season results, it is presently unclear what mechanism could be used to get Herta a licence short of the FIA just ruling it into existence on the basis of the American’s demonstrated talent.

And that is something that Binotto hints both he and many other teams would severely disapprove of.

“We are investing a lot in our Ferrari Driver Academy and continue to do so,” Binotto said ahead of the Italian Grand Prix at Monza.

“Force majeure cannot be used for Herta, that will be a completely wrong approach.

“Regulations are in place in order to protect our sport and make sure that we’re making the right process and choices for our sport itself.

“So Herta may participate in the championship if he’s got what are the requirements to do so and not differently. That’s very important, and we will certainly overview what FIA will do in that respect, and I think each single team will do so because it’s important for our sport.

“We cannot have force majeure whatever the situation – which is not a force majeure certainly in that case.”

Remarkably, there is sympathy on the part of the Herta camp towards this argument.

Herta’s father Bryan, a winner of CART and IRL races in his own driving career in the 1990s and early 2000s, told NBC during this weekend’s IndyCar finale at Laguna Seca that any sort of exemption for Herta “could be unfair to other people”.

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“The superlicence points are the FIA, and they make the rules, and you have to respect and follow the rules,” said Herta Sr, who is now a team co-owner at Andretti Autosport.

“The one thing I would say is Colton deserves a chance at Formula 1 sometime. When that sometime is, I don’t know.

“But I think it would be unfair for him to come in as a special case. He needs to come in under the rules. If you do it, do it by the rules.

“If they re-evaluate how they all get points to IndyCar, that’s one thing. But the rules are what the rules are.”

What Herta Sr.’s words did reference, however, is the widespread current debate on whether IndyCar success is sufficiently rewarded by the FIA superlicence system – and whether the points allocation could be changed not just going forward but retroactively, which would solve the younger Herta’s issue.

“I can understand their side of the argument, they want guys to go over there and race the ladder series,” Herta Jr told NBC at Laguna Seca. “So, it makes sense.

“But at the same aspect, it seems a little bit disrespectful to IndyCar to have that few points, but I can understand both sides of the argument.

“As for an exemption, I’m not sure that’s really the way I like to do it. I would rather not be this way.”

Motor Racing Formula One World Championship Italian Grand Prix Practice Day Monza, Italy

The uncertainty over Herta’s status is holding up Pierre Gasly’s potential move to Alpine, with Gasly expected to remain at AlphaTauri – where he is already contracted for 2023 – if Herta can’t be given an F1 licence.

“The latest on Pierre is that he has a contract with us, as I said already the last time,” AlphaTauri team boss Franz Tost said at Monza, “and regarding Colton Herta, it’s a decision from the FIA whether he gets the superlicence or not.

“And I hope that the FIA will take this decision as soon as possible so that we know how to build up the team and where to go for next year.”

Tost said his team would do “everything what is being requested” by the FIA – such as, for example, run Herta in FP1s this year – to help the American qualify for a licence.

Asked whether a Red Bull junior could come in and take Gasly’s seat if the Herta bid falls through, Tost said: “This is a decision from Red Bull, which driver they will bring into the team.

“But I think if it’s not Colton Herta then Pierre Gasly will stay and nothing will change.”

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