Herta signs 4-year extension of Andretti IndyCar until 2027
Colton Herta believes so strongly that Andretti Autosport can return to the top of IndyCar that he announced a four-year extension on Tuesday until 2027 before Roger Penske or Chip Ganassi even have a chance to sign the American .
Herta’s current contract with Andretti runs until next season, and with his Formula 1 aspirations temporarily on hold, Herta believes he can win in IndyCar with Michael Andretti.
Andretti Autosport last won the IndyCar championship in 2012 and last won the Indianapolis 500 in 2016 with Alexander Rossi. With Rossi now heading to McLaren next year, Herta entering his fifth season in IndyCar will be Andretti’s most veteran production driver.
“I see what’s going on in the background, I see the momentum and there’s a lot of investment in the team,” Herta said in a phone interview with The Associated Press. “I believe in the future. It didn’t matter what anyone else had to say. I believe in Andretti’s leadership.
The investment comes from a concurrent four-year extension announced with sponsor Gainbridge, a loyal partner of Andretti. And the belief could come from the hope that a path to F1 could still be in play for Herta with Andretti.
“Racing in F1 is still one of my goals. I still think it’s a possibility. But it won’t happen next year, obviously,” Herta told the AP. “But in the next few years? “That may still be a possibility. There’s no clear path for me for next year. Does that mean Michael couldn’t get a team for 24? A lot of things can happen. »
Thus ends the roller coaster year for Herta, 22, who at times looked set to become the first American driver on the F1 grid since Rossi in 2015. His chance was scuttled by the FIA, the governing body of F1, which would not grant Herta the super license required to participate in the World Series.
He has therefore signed an IndyCar renewal with Andretti Autosport, as Michael Andretti tries to bring two-car Andretti Global into the current 10-team F1 grid. Andretti, with help in part from Gainbridge, had hoped to convince the FIA to expand the grid and planned to bring Herta with him.
But existing F1 teams are not in favor of network expansion and wealth redistribution, and although Herta has been free to leave Andretti for an F1 opportunity under his existing contract, the lack of Super License has currently relegated him to IndyCar.
He said the extension could move him to F1 with Andretti if Andretti lands a team, but leaving the Andretti IndyCar organization for an F1 opportunity will be more complicated going forward.
“I’ll never be disappointed driving IndyCar. I’m perfectly happy driving IndyCar,” Herta said. never had a chance in F1.”
From an IndyCar perspective, the signing is huge: Chip Ganassi Racing’s No. 10 is set to open up when Alex Palou moves to McLaren in 2024, defending Series champion Will Power enters a contract year on the No. 12 with Team Penske, and six-time IndyCar champion Scott Dixon will be 43 next season – his 21st year with Ganassi.
“I have a lot of confidence and integrity where I am,” Herta told the AP. “And a lot of money is good, but you also make a lot of money by winning a lot of races.”
There’s been a ton of F1 hype surrounding Herta, who this year signed a test contract with McLaren. But Herta currently lacks the points required to obtain the compulsory F1 licence, largely because IndyCar is undervalued in the ranking system. The FIA does not govern IndyCar, or NASCAR for that matter, and essentially classifies the two as mid-series.
Red Bull had asked Herta, a seven-race winner who in 2019 became IndyCar’s youngest winner days before his 19th birthday, for a super license waiver. If the FIA had not refused, Red Bull had hoped to put Herta in its AlphaTauri junior team next season.
The lack of a license has essentially closed the door to F1 for Herta for now, and the Californian didn’t even attend the United States Grand Prix last week in Austin, Texas.
Herta was a popular figure at the Miami Grand Prix in May when he attended as a guest of McLaren, asked to sit in the F1 car and asked for a steering wheel diagram. When Herta showed up two months later for a McLaren F1 test in full preparation he wowed on the track, word spread and rival teams developed a sudden interest in landing the American.
“I think IndyCar should probably be re-evaluated in the super license system,” Herta told the AP. “I think IndyCar is undervalued. I understand we’re not an FIA championship, we don’t bring money or anything like that to the FIA, so I guess it makes more sense than they draw attention to their championships.
“But I think to be fair, if you’re claiming to be the best championship in the world with the best drivers, you should probably give everyone a fair chance.”
Herta said he was out of McLaren’s rotation when he started speaking with AlphaTauri.
There is also less urgency around Herta now that Williams plans to promote F2 driver Logan Sargeant from Florida to F1 next year if the 21-year-old gets his super license by the end of the season. It would give Williams the win by marking the newest American driver in F1’s fastest growing market.
Herta and Sargeant grew up racing karting against each other and both dabbled in Europe as teenagers, but Herta returned to America and Indy Lights when finances became tight. The wealthier Sargeant was able to stay the course in Europe.
“I was always about a year ahead of him, but we had similar paths,” Herta said. “I’m really happy to see this happen for him and it’s so cool to see an American succeed.”
AP Auto Racing: https://apnews.com/hub/auto-racing and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
This story was originally published October 25, 2022 1:01 p.m.