Driving a Formula 1 car for the first time, Colton Herta impressed the McLaren team in a two-day F1 test on the Portimao circuit in Portugal.
The Andretti Autosport driver completed 162 laps on Monday and Tuesday in a 2021 McLaretn MCL35M on the 4.653 kilometer road course where F1 raced in 2020-21. Although no lap times were provided (both the team and driver said variable conditions would have made comparison difficult), McLaren F1 Team principal Andreas Seidl said Herta excelled at fit for a faster, more powerful car and an upgrade in technological sophistication from his full-time run in the NTT IndyCar series.
“I have to say the team was very impressed with the way Colton overcame all of these challenges and his professional approach,” Seidl said. “His physical preparation allowed him to continue throughout the two days knowing how difficult it can be in a Formula 1 car on a track like Portimao. In the end, his approach allowed him to gradually gain rhythm and confidence. And finding the right balance between taking risks and keeping the car on track.
Seidl said the team put Herta to the test with race simulations, varying tire compounds and fuel loads and also focusing on different driving techniques.
Herta finished the test confident he can be an F1 driver – and he hopes he left the same impression with McLaren, even though that was not the original purpose of the test.
“It’s hard to get in a race car and not drive it as fast as you can,” Herta said. “It was the whole point of getting here, it was to acclimatize, to get up to speed and to really see what I can do in a race car. It was a lot of fun. It was super special to drive and handle beautifully. I was able to make some setup tweaks in the afternoon and get it more to my liking. You really want to impress people with how fast you can drive a race car, whatever the circumstances.
“(F1) is one of my goals and has been for a while now. … It was amazing. All the engineers were great at getting me up to speed. That was the most important thing. I wanted to see what it was like those cars, and luckily McLaren was able to give me that chance.”
Said Seidl: “The team will go into the data and the details to get a first idea of the potential Colton has shown in our car. And then we will have quite a picture and a good idea. This will be part of our assessment as well as what potential next steps might look like. »
McLaren is believed to have an open ride in 2024 with drivers Daniel Riccardio and Lando Norris signed until at least 2023.
“As always here at McLaren, we are taking it step by step,” Seidl said when asked if Herta was a candidate to drive for the team in 24. “The objective of this test was to give Colton the chance to experience a Formula 1 car for the first time and explore its performance. That was the goal. What comes next is something we take step by step. Let’s also take our time. C is where we are.
Herta, 22, has did not hide his desire to race in Formula 1. He signed an extension last year until the 2023 IndyCar season with Andretti, who intended to field him in F1 before his deal to acquire a team fell through last fall.
In March, McLaren signed Herta to its “Previous Car Test” scheme, a new F1 regulation that allows teams to train with one-year-old cars to help assess potential drivers and young talent for the coming.
Under F1 rules, McLaren must field an F1 rookie twice during Friday practice sessions. Seidl said McLaren was assessing rookies to use on race weekends after F1’s summer break.
Another possibility for FP1 time would be Arrow McLaren SP IndyCar driver Pato O’Ward, who tested a McLaren F1 car for the first time last year in Abu Dhabi.
“Further testing opportunities for Pato we are evaluating at the moment,” Seidl said. “He had a good test with us last year in Abu Dhabi. We were also very happy with the way he prepared for this test and his performance throughout the test. We are happy that both guys have shown so far.
Herta said he was willing to try the Friday practice sessions, but preferred the TPC practice days because “you get the whole track to yourself and all that time inside the car that you obviously won’t get in 60 minutes of FP1. It would be cool to get a taste of the 2022 cars and see how they compare to this car. I’d be all for it.
Herta said he was most struck by the “incredible” amount of torque in an F1 car compared to IndyCar.
“It was the most important thing for me,” he said. “Straight line speed, acceleration and braking. Obviously the cornering speeds were higher than in an Indy car, but that didn’t stand out to me as much as the impressive acceleration and ease with all that power to accelerate.
“It’s a completely different feeling. The feeling you get from the Indy car is way different due to the lack of power steering. So the overall bounce and wheel-like softness isn’t really (compared to) what you would get in a grand prix car. It was something to get used to, slow your hands down, speeds are much higher on road courses. Overall it was good to have a idea and a taste of what these things can do. I felt comfortable right away, the most important thing was putting together a bend or turn.
Working through aero and mechanical tweaks, the California native was impressed with the improved tools F1 drivers use in the cockpit to adjust handling on the fly.
“It was pretty cool to see the balance changes and what you could do inside the car, which was way more than what we could do inside the Indy car,” said- he declared. “So it was great, if you have a problem in one corner you can fix it in a jiffy.
“It’s hard to say where you stand against these guys when you’re doing a test program like this in a year-old car. But when it comes to my comfort, I really felt comfortable and I could feel the edge. Maybe not the consistency that would come with a few more days. But I felt like I was close.”
In his first F1 test, Colton Herta impresses the McLaren team for two days at Portimao originally appeared on NBCSports.com