IndyCar

IndyCar|Why Herta’s F1 snub is a wake-up call for IndyCar

With news emerging that Colton Herta’s proposed move to Alpha Tauri has been scuppered after being denied a super licence, I decided to look into whether the point system used to determine how many points a driver receives needs tweaking.

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IndyCar|Why Herta’s F1 snub is a wake-up call for IndyCar
Fuente imagen: Penske Entertainment: James Black

Misfortune seemingly comes in twos these days.

Following his failed move to the proposed Andretti-owned Sauber team, Colton Herta's name was once again linked with another Formula 1 drive.

This time it was Alpha Tauri who was interested in his services as they looked to find a suitable replacement for the seemingly Alpine-bound Pierre Gasly. 

Rumors regarding Herta's potential move to Alpha Tauri began to intensify around the Dutch Grand Prix meeting, indicating that the Californian was in the ascendancy of Formula 1, and it seemed that, at long last, America would get its Formula 1 driver after a seven-year wait.

There was, however, one small problem.

Herta only had 32 super license points, making him illegible to race in Formula 1, forcing all parties involved to try and hastily lobby the sport's rule makers to alter the system to get him onto the grid even if he and his father Bryan were hesitant on the idea of being allowed into Formula 1 through special circumstances.

But it was to no avail; Herta was denied a superlicence, dismaying many in Formula 1 and angering some in IndyCar, who accused the sport of keeping American talent out whilst taking American money.

Whilst Formula 1's snub of one of the US's brightest stars has been seen as a PR own goal for a sport wanting to expand into America for IndyCar, it could be the perfect opportunity to make a case and help inspire a fairer points system.

Why does IndyCar deserve more respect?

When you compare Formula 2 and IndyCar's superlicence points, the vast gap between the series emerges from second place onwards.

While second or third in F2 gets a driver the full 40 required to race in F1, second and third in IndyCar get only 30 and 20, and that decreases as you go down to tenth.

This is odd, considering that the quality of the IndyCar field is arguably the strongest since the CART era of the mid-90s.

The IndyCar grid is rich with talent, ranging from wily old veterans such as Scott Dixon, Will Power and Josef Newgarden to hotly rated youngsters such as Herta Pato O'Ward 2021 series champion Alex Palou and David Malukas.

What's more, the quality of racing is arguably at its best since those heady days, and with a slew of teams running two or more cars.

To put it Simply, it's where opportunity knocks for many who were chewed up and spat out of the European junior system, and it's also a great opportunity to test their abilities on tracks ranging from the twisty streets of Long Beach to the forever mythical brickyard. 

Why a change in the way IndyCar is treated could open the door to Super Formula and WEC

IndyCar isn't the only series to receive a less than favorable amount of points from the super licence system.

Japan's Super Formula earns a similar amount of points to FRECA, a series that is a stepping stone to Formula 3.

This is bizarre in itself as Super Formula has been seen as an alternative route for young Europeans to make it into Formula 1 whilst experiencing a new culture and earning a decent-sized paycheck.

Drivers such as Ralf Schumacher, Eddie Irvine and Pedro De La Rosa all made their way to Formula 1 through the series, which today still has a quality calendar that includes two grade one circuits and the cream of Japanese motor racing running two 543bph monsters. It's a pity that the series doesn't earn the respect it deserves.

Another long-standing alternative route has been sportscars, notably the group c days when Stefan Bellof and Michael Schumacher used the World sportscar championship as a springboard to a seat in Formula 1.

With the hypercar boom set to take place next year, many junior drivers might jump at the chance to race in what looks likely to become the second golden era of sportscar racing, even if they will have to race in the series for two years before becoming eligible for a superlicence as WEC hypercars is only worth 30 points.

Both series produce high-quality racing and visit grade one circuits, yet like IndyCar, they are overlooked when it comes to super license points.

What does it mean for Herta?

Although a Formula 1 birth may have passed him by for another year. Herta does have a contract at Andretti Autosport for 2023, meaning that an opportunity to get the 40 points will all depend on whether Andretti can take the fight to Ganassi and Penske.

Herta also needs to iron out the mistakes and the lack of consistency which dogged his 2022 campaign, as although the speed is there, the results don't always showcase his natural talent.

Andretti has signed him to drive for the Andretti Global project, but with that entry receiving significant pushback by the sport's big guns, it seems unlikely that he will move to Formula 1 as the lead driver of a new team.

Many argue that Herta would end up like Cristiano Da Matta and Michael Andretti when they entered Formula 1, out after a season, never to return. 

Still, for every Da Matta and Andretti, they're is Juan Pablo Montoya and Jacques Villeneuve, two drivers who came saw and won in both series; the latter even became World champion.

This article wasn't written so that this writer could advocate for the super licence system to be scrapped far from it.

Without it, the quality of drivers entering the sport would be significantly worse as it would be more about the size of the drivers' bank balance rather than how quickly they can take Eau Rouge.

But the system needs tweaking, and whilst IndyCar drivers and teams will call foul on the FIA's points system, it's also an excellent time to turn the anger into a positive by demanding change and showcasing the remarkable progress the series has made since reunification with Champ Car in 2008.

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