FIA considering Herta’s superlicence credentials

The FIA is looking into whether there are grounds to grant IndyCar driver Colton Herta a Formula 1 superlicence amid speculation linking the American to AlphaTauri for next season.

Colton Herta, McLaren MCL35M

Alongside his current IndyCar commitments with Andretti Autosport, Herta has a testing deal with McLaren and drove a 2021 car in Portimao last month.

However, he has now been lined up by Red Bull motorsport boss Helmut Marko as an AlphaTauri driver, if for example Pierre Gasly is released to drive for Alpine.

The big challenge surrounding any potential deal is that he is currently short of the 40 points required to achieve a superlicence.

It’s clearly in the interests of F1 and all teams to have an American on the grid next year – especially with Las Vegas joining Austin and Miami on the schedule – but the FIA will have to be careful not to set a precedent by bending its own rules in order to help Herta’s case.

While rival team bosses can clearly see the value of having an American in F1, those who have junior programmes and spend extensively on enabling their drivers to collect points in F3 and F2 will also be keen to see that the established process is respected.

One paddock source closely associated with young drivers told Autosport: “If he gets a licence we might as well all stop investing F3 and F2.”

In fact Herta is not too far off the required total, as IndyCar carries a relatively strong weighting in the superlicence points table.

Known as Supplement 1 that table and the other requirements pertaining to superlicences can be found in Appendix L of the FIA’s International Sporting Code.

Due to COVID drivers can currently count their best three scores from the four seasons preceding their application, which would mean 2019 to ‘22 if Herta is to race in F1 next year.

He earned four points for seventh in the IndyCar series in 2019, 20 for third place in 2020, and eight for fifth place in 2021, for a total of 32.

Colton Herta, McLaren MCL35M

Colton Herta, McLaren MCL35M

Photo by: McLaren

With two rounds to go in the 2022 series he currently lies 10th with eighth his realistic best final result, so it won’t count as one of his best three.

He can also gain an extra point for any FP1 session he does between now and the end of the 2022 season, as long as he manages more than 100kms and doesn’t log any penalty points.

Up to 10 points can be gained that way. With Herta’s IndyCar season ending on the same weekend as the Italian GP any such running with AlphaTauri could in theory involve the last six races of the season from Singapore onwards, potentially taking him to 38, although realistically the team is unlikely to be able to arrange a full programme in time.

Crucially however the FIA has given itself some wiggle room, as one clause of the ISC notes that a superlicence could still go to a driver who misses out on the other qualifications. That's the case if they have “scored a minimum of 30 superlicence points but judged at the sole determination of the FIA as unable to qualify under any of a) to c) above, while participating in one or more of the championships listed in Supplement 1, due to circumstances outside their control or reasons of force majeure.”

Force majeure could be especially useful if Herta was to apply for a full superlicence – and not the Friday version used for FP1 sessions – that would allow him to race this year. That would potentially open up the four-season range of results that he can call on to include 2018 to ’21.

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He finished second in the 2018 Indy Lights championship, a performance that should in theory be worth 12 points.

Unfortunately for Herta the series had only eight regular entrants, not enough to meet the FIA criteria for scoring superlicence points.

However, if the FIA decides that he could count those points after all – for example because the lack of entries was outside his control – he could potentially count 12 for 2018, 20 for 2020, and eight for 2021, making for a total of 40, which is exactly what he needs.

However that scenario would appear to rely on AlphaTauri being in a position to allow him to race before the end of this year, which would mean benching either Gasly or Yuki Tsunoda at one of the final events of the season.

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