Silly season in Formula 1 was seemingly nearing its conclusion after McLaren finally confirmed Oscar Piastri as its replacement for Daniel Ricciardo. But then, attention shifted to Red Bull and the possible departure of Pierre Gasly from Alpha Tauri. The favorite candidate to secure the seat alongside Yuki Tsunoda at Red Bull’s second F1 team was 22-year-old IndyCar standout Colton Herta. The only barrier in the young American’s path to F1 was his lack of an FIA Super License, which it turns out, was enough to deter Red Bull.
According to Motorsport.com, Red Bull has ended its efforts to sign Herta for the 2023 F1 season. Herta is eight points shy of the necessary 40 points to obtain a Super License. Red Bull and Herta were hopeful that the FIA, international motorsport’s governing body, would grant an exemption to the established regulation and allow the American to receive the top-tier license. While not officially confirming their position, the parties involved noted that the FIA was not going to grant said exemption.
The quandary put Red Bull in a position where they would have to find a way to make up Herta’s eight-point deficit before the 2023 F1 season. The team’s only avenue was to enter Colton Herta in a winter competition to earn points, like New Zealand’s Toyota Racing Series. However, this would have put Herta in an all-or-nothing situation where he would have to win an unfamiliar championship to get enough points to race in F1. Herta finishing the winter season in 2nd place or worse would leave Red Bull with one month to find an F1 replacement. Red Bull opted not to take that gamble.
Helmut Marko, head of Red Bull’s prolific junior program, lamented the missed opportunity of having a star driver from the United States. Dr. Marko told German-language outlet Motorsport-Total (as translated by Motorsport.com), “It’s a shame that people don’t realize what value an American driver, especially a guy like Colton Herta, would have for the booming American market, especially with three F1 races.”
Herta will now remain with Andretti Autosport in the NTT IndyCar Series for 2023; he’s currently set to become a free agent after the season. Alex Palou, Ganassi driver and missed McLaren prospect, is also set to become a free agent after the 2023 IndyCar season. While IndyCar’s young talent missed the window to elope to Formula 1’s greener pastures, they will likely try again in the near future.