Column: Andretti & Herta would be the American F1 dream team

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Professional racing driver by day and group drummer by night, Californian surfer Colton Herta is also…

A professional race car driver by day and a band drummer by night, California surfer Colton Herta is as Gen Z as you’ll ever see him.

He’s 21 with perfect flow – Herta does the lettuce haircut – dates a University of Southern California student and is a taco truck connoisseur.

Herta is also the perfect candidate to become the first American Formula 1 driver since 2015.

Reports from the weekend surfaced that Michael Andretti was in talks with Switzerland-based Sauber to take over the Alfa Romeo squad and place his young driver in the last seat remaining on the F1 grid. Is it true? Camp Andretti said there was no news beyond Andretti’s stated desire to own an F1 team.

Could this happen? Anything is possible if Andretti has $ 200 million to cover the requisite F1 buy-in costs.

Andretti is expected to be in Austin, Texas next week at the United States Grand Prix to further explore his F1 desires. When asked by The Associated Press last month about how his lawsuit was going, Andretti said he had yet to find a team to sell.

Andretti was frustrated with the lack of American representation in the series and cited a few driver names in current F1 seats or in reserve roles that he rated below Herta. His father, Mario, has drummed for Herta all year, so it wouldn’t be rocket science to assume that if Andretti gets an F1 team, he’ll want Herta. The globe-trotting series needs American representation, and an Andretti-Herta combo is a money-making game.

Liberty Media, a US-based investment firm, took over F1 in 2017 and slowly gained a foothold in North America. The series has gained invaluable American exposure thanks to Netflix’s popular Drive To Survive docuseries and the inaugural race next May in Miami around the NFL Dolphins Stadium and will give F1 four stops in North America in 2022.

F1 has an American team owner, but Gene Haas since 2016 has shown no desire to engage in the development of an American driver. He hired rookies Mick Schumacher from Germany and Nikita Mazepin from Russia this year, but the team has gone from midfield to worst in F1.

Mario Andretti won 12 F1 races and the 1978 world championship; Michael Andretti drove 13 miserable races for McLaren in 1993 before being sent back to the United States for good with three races remaining. They both believe that red, white and blue need a proper representation of F1 and a driver running under the American flag.

Mario Andretti raced under “Old Glory” and his 1978 Dutch Grand Prix victory was the last F1 victory for an American. Alexander Rossi, now IndyCar driver for Andretti with a victory at Indianapolis 500, was in 2015 the last American to start an F1 race.

A couple Andretti and Herta would undoubtedly be attractive to Liberty and its long-term North American goals.

Is that what Herta wants, however? He has already tried the F1 road once and moved to London on his own at 15. But he was never shaken and returned to the United States in 2017 to try the IndyCar.

Herta had a full-time seat two years later and became the youngest IndyCar winner at 19. He has now completed three full seasons, has six career wins and, with some consistency from Andretti’s cars, would be a championship contender.

Herta signed a two-year contract extension in May, around the same time Mario Andretti offered him for F1. AP then asked Herta about the F1 buzz, which led to some reflection on his time in Europe.

“I thought when I was there I deserved an opportunity, or at least a chance with a junior program, but unfortunately it didn’t work,” Herta told AP. “But it worked out differently because I came home and raced IndyCar and that was my main focus. I always, always wanted to race IndyCar.

“I know the time to race in Formula 1 is short and I would have tried, but I knew I would always be able to go back to IndyCar. And I’ve always planned to race primarily in IndyCar for most of my career.

Maybe he tempered his goals because of the slim chances that an American would succeed in climbing the European ranks to reach the top. There are only 20 seats on the F1 grid and none of the teams are currently developing American drivers.

“I don’t know why it’s like this,” Herta said. “A lot of people say Europeans don’t like Americans (in F1), but I don’t know if that’s the case. But my father knows a lot of people here and I can get around here much more easily than there, where we don’t know anyone.

Herta was a sponge during his two years in Europe, where he said Trevor Carlin gave him enough track time between his 30 races and 25 days of extra testing, and he learned to talk to engineers and to defend in competitive situations.

“When you think you don’t have a chance you have to speak up, and I know it might seem difficult for a 16 year old to argue with adults, but you have to do it,” Herta said. . “When I came back I was 16 but felt like 25 because of all the knowledge I have about racing. And I wasn’t afraid to speak for myself .

A lot should fall into place to bring Herta back to Europe, starting with Andretti in the process of acquiring a squad. Herta would also need a waiver to get the “super license” required to race in F1. The infuriating super licensing system is how F1’s governing body determines which drivers are qualified to enter the series; to date, Herta is not eligible.

Whatever happens in Austin next weekend or beyond, if Andretti can get his foot in the door of F1 again, expect to see Herta not far behind him.

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