• Chris Kato

How IndyCar's Colton Herta Holds the Key to the 2023 F1 Driver Market

A driver not even in Formula 1 could have a huge impact on the 2023 F1 driver market...

As Max Verstappen was taking his second straight home Grand Prix win and 10th overall of this season, Red Bull were busy behind the scenes during the Dutch Grand Prix weekend. Next to the on-track action, there has been plenty of action off of it as well in terms of the 2023 driver market. Helmut Marko and Red Bull were busy negotiating one of the big puzzle pieces of that driver market in Zandvoort as they seek to find a replacement for the Alpine bound Pierre Gasly. And that driver is none other than IndyCar standout Colton Herta who is Red Bull's number one choice to fill that second Alpha Tauri seat. But the deal is not as straightforward as it sounds and regardless of the interest from both parties, there is one big hurdle that Herta must clear in order to race in F1 next year. And if this falls through, it could have a ripple effect on multiple teams and their driver choices for 2023. So in today's video, we're going to explain the problems standing in the way of Herta's Alpha Tauri deal and what effect that will have on Gasly's future as well.

The Super- Licence Issue

Red Bull made it clear that an agreement had been reached between them and Colton Herta's management on an F1 drive for 2023. But the issue at hand is something that has hampered Herta's F1 chances in the past. In order to race in Formula 1, drivers must earn an F1 super license from racing in other motorsport categories. Since the license system changed in 2015 thanks to Max Verstappen, here are the requirements needed to obtain an F1 super license;

  • Be at least 18-years-old

  • Obtain a full, valid driving licence

  • Hold an International Grade A competition licence

  • Pass a mandatory test in the F1 sporting regulations

  • Complete at least 300km worth of testing in a recent F1 car

  • Two years of racing

  • Obtain at least 40 points in the Super Licence Points system

Now before we touch on Herta's qualifications, first it would be helpful to understand how the points are handed out for other racing categories. In what is a hot topic debate, IndyCar does not earn as many super license points due to the fact its not FIA sanctioned and not as highly regarded. Therefore drivers finishing outside of the top two in the championship earn far less points than there F2 counterparts. As far as Colton Herta is concerned, he has some European racing experience as he was actually Lando Norris' British F4 teammate in 2015. Herta is expected to finish 2022 with only 32 out of 40 super license points as he sits 8th in the IndyCar championship with one race remaining. Although Herta can gain super licence points through Free Practice sessions, he currently is not scheduled to participate in F1 practices this year.

Herta's move to Alpha Tauri in 2023 hinges on a potential exemption from the FIA to give the 22 year old American a super license for next season. When speaking about the chances of this happening, Red Bull's Helmut Marko said; “It’s nothing unreasonable, he won seven IndyCar races. That’s comparable to grand prix races. So, it would be a shame if he wouldn’t get the superlicence" But this potential rules break angered some F1 team principals with Haas' Guenter Steiner not a fan of the idea. “If we don’t respect our own rules, and try to find ways around it, I don’t think that’s correct. I mean, we could then apply that to other things as well." McLaren however was supportive of the idea as they have Herta under a testing contract and would like to see the American in F1. “Absolutely open for some flexibility there in handing a guy like Colton the Super License, Andreas Seidl said, because at the end of it, what he has shown so far in his racing career, I have no doubt that he is absolutely able to compete in F1.” Either way, this developing situation should resolve quickly as Red Bull is seeking a definite answer by the Italian Grand Prix.

The Impact on Gasly's Future

Fernando Alonso kicked off one of the busiest silly season's in recent memory with his decision to leave Alpine for Aston Martin. After weeks of contract debacles and drama, Alpine now have confirmation that Oscar Piastri is no longer theirs and the second Alpine seat is open. So enter Pierre Gasly. A French driver driving for a works French team and finally a fresh start outside the Red Bull family... sounds good right? Well, Gasly's move to Alpine all hinges on Colton Herta's ability to obtain his super-license. As Christian Horner stated post Dutch GP, "Pierre doing a good job in AT. There would not be a desire to change if there was not an interesting option available....If the option is not there, the other triggers will not come into play." Red Bull have made it clear that they are happy to let Pierre Gasly go but only if their number one choice Herta is able to take his place. Without this, Red Bull would retain Gasly at Alpha Tauri who already had a contract with the team for 2023. This would in turn leave Alpine in a further dilemma of having to find another driver after seeing two potentials slip through their hands.

With an exciting IndyCar prospect potentially joining F1 and Gasly moving to a new team, there is a lot of folks around the F1 world hoping for this deal to go through. The 2023 F1 driver market has been quite the show so far and it seems like the driver merry go round might be gaining speed as we head into Monza.

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