RACING

Herta feels fast enough for Formula 1 after first test

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Herta, who has racked up seven wins and eight pole positions since joining the IndyCar Series full-time in 2019, tested last year’s McLaren MCL35M under TPC [testing previous car] rules, completing 162 laps of the 2,891-mile Autodromo Internacional do Algarve over two days.

Despite running the car on a track McLaren had data on, thanks to the track hosting the 2020 and 21 Portuguese Grands Prix, Herta said comparisons to the lap times of F1 regulars from the Lando team Norris and Daniel Ricciardo in the MCL35 would be tough. .

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“It’s a track that is so difficult to understand because of the winds and so many different factors,” he told the media. “It’s a bit cooler today than it would have been on race weekend.

Colton Herta, McLaren MCL35M

Photo by: McLaren

“I was happy with the lap time, but we are on a bit different tire than we would have had on a race weekend. And if you look at a lot of guys’ quotes from a year ago, they were talking about the wind here and how much that can change the car here from corner to corner.

“As for the lap times, it’s a bit difficult to say. I think the engineers will know by looking at the data if you are fast or not.

However, when asked if he was convinced he would be competitive in F1, Herta replied: “Yes, yes… you can’t say no to that question otherwise you wouldn’t be a professional driver. So yeah, I think I’m pretty fast.

“If they’re okay, I guess time will tell, and hopefully I can get more chances in the car and hopefully I can show that.”

To that end, he said he would be interested in FP1 sessions later in the year, although he admitted they would be less useful in terms of available track time.

“[Friday practice] is definitely something I would be open to,” said the 22-year-old from Valencia, Calif. “When it comes to TPC test days you can’t get better than that because you have the whole track to yourself, you get all that time inside the car which obviously in FP1 in 60 minutes you will not get.

“But it would be cool to get a taste of the 2022 cars and see how they compare to this car. So yeah, I’d be up for that.

Herta described his first F1 test as “very fun” and was deeply impressed with his acceleration.

“I think the first thing was, when I came out of the pit lane speed limiter, the whole torque is pretty amazing,” he said. “Even when you’re at such low rpm it still pulls. That was the most important thing for me – straight line speed, acceleration and braking.

“Obviously the cornering speeds were higher than what you’d get in an IndyCar, but that didn’t stand out to me as much as the awesome acceleration and how easy it is to get all that power right off the bat. that you put the strangle.”

As for cornering response, Herta admitted, “It’s a completely different feel. The feel you get from an IndyCar is very different due to the lack of power steering, so the overall setback in the steering wheel doesn’t really convey what you get in a Grand Prix car. So that was something to get used to – slowing down the hands.

“And obviously the speed is a lot higher on the road courses, but overall it was good to get a feel and a taste of what these things can do.”

Herta said the test was long enough to look at the constant improvements available to tune an F1 car.

“We were able to go through a lot of different things, a lot of different mechanical and aero balance changes with the car,” he said. “And then inside the car itself, I got to play with all the tools, the differential settings and all that kind of stuff.

“It was pretty cool to see the balance changes and what you can do with the car just from inside the car, which was a bit more than what we’re capable of doing in IndyCar… If you have a problem in a turn, you can fix it in a jiffy.

Colton Herta, McLaren MCL35M

Colton Herta, McLaren MCL35M

Photo by: McLaren

He added: “I felt comfortable straight away. The most important thing was to take a ride. I feel that I have reached the limit halfway through the [first] day, but it was just separate corners being put together, while on the second day, I was confident enough to put [whole] laps together – low fuel, high fuel and everything in between. But it took time, that’s for sure. »

On how many more days he might need to feel fully prepared, Herta replied: “It’s hard to tell where you stand against these guys when you’re doing a test program in a car. one year. But when it comes to my comfort, I really felt comfortable in the car. I could feel the limit. Maybe not the consistency that would come with a few more days, but I felt like I was close.

Herta said a move to F1 “is one of my goals, it’s been a while” and the timing must be in two or three years, rather than 10.

“Of course, I think if I had to wait that long, it wouldn’t happen,” he said. “I think Formula 1 these days is definitely a young man’s game to get into. Luckily I have some time if the opportunity arises, but I’m not really too worried about it. this topic for now. I’m just going to try to go as fast as I can and hope to open some doors at some point.

When asked if Herta was a serious contender for a McLaren F1 seat in 2024, Andreas Seidl replied: “The aim of this test today was, as Colton mentioned, to give Colton the chance to experience an F1 car for the first time and explore its performance.. And that was the goal and what comes next is something that we take step by step, we also take our time. This is where we are…

“When you do those two days of testing, obviously the testing goals are different. First and foremost, to give Colton a chance to get used to the car, but also to focus on working on different, let’s say , driving techniques, eg Getting used to different operational aspects of Formula 1 race weekends, like comparing different tire compounds, running at different fuel loads as well, racing quality, racing racing simulation as well.

“I have to say the team was very impressed with the way Colton coped with all these challenges and his professional approach. And what was great to see also, his physical preparation allowed him to really carry on throughout the two days, knowing how difficult it can be in Formula 1 on a circuit like Portimao.

Colton Herta, McLaren MCL35M

Colton Herta, McLaren MCL35M

Photo by: McLaren

“In the end, this approach with the team allowed him to really pick up the pace, to gradually gain confidence. And also to always find the right balance between taking risks and keeping the car on the track, which is obviously important. also on a test like this.

Although Seidl agreed with Herta that direct lap time comparisons with McLaren’s full-time drivers at Portimao from last year could not be made, he said the team would dig into the data and assess Herta’s potential given the relative differences in track, weather and tire compounds, and would decide whether he will be considered for the FP1 sessions.

“Over the next few days the team will go into the data in detail, to get a first idea of ​​the potential Colton has shown in our car,” he said. “Then we will have a better image or a good idea. And that will obviously also be part of our assessment, what the potential next steps might look like.

“As you know we are obliged by regulations to run an F1 rookie twice this year in a free practice session 1. We plan to do this during race weekends at some point after the summer break, so we still have time to decide when we’ll actually do that and who we’ll put in the car and, yes, that’s a process we’re in, in the next few weeks.

Seidl also said IndyCar rival Herta and former Indy Lights teammate Pato O’Ward would be another driver under consideration. The young Mexican driver, who currently drives for Arrow McLaren SP in IndyCar and is a championship contender for the third consecutive year, tested an F1 car for the team last winter.

“In terms of additional testing opportunities for Pato, that’s something we’re evaluating right now,” Seidl said. “He had a good test with us last year in Abu Dhabi, where we were very happy with the way Pato was preparing for the test, with his performance throughout the test.

“So I would say our first impression or conclusion, even though it sounds like a boring answer, we’re happy with what both guys have shown so far.”

Colton Herta, McLaren MCL35M

Colton Herta, McLaren MCL35M

Photo by: McLaren

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