RACING

What impressed Herta the most in the first McLaren F1 test

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A Formula 1’s “pretty incredible” torque and acceleration were among the qualities that most impressed IndyCar driver Colton Herta during his first F1 drive with McLaren.

Herta drove the 2021 MCL35M chassis for two days at the Portimao circuit which hosted the Portuguese Grand Prix in 2020 and 2021, while McLaren used the Testing of Previous Cars (TPC) layout to conduct a three-day test which will continue on Wednesday.

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The 22-year-old completed 162 laps, the 750 kilometers (466 miles) he covered equaling two and a half Grand Prix distances, and tried various Pirelli tire compounds.

“It was a lot of fun, two great days to acclimatize to the car, which is obviously a bit different from what I’m used to driving,” Herta said, summarizing the test.

“A slightly different driving style. But the engineers were very helpful in getting me up to speed.

“And what a car. What a car to drive. It’s really special not only to have a first test in a Formula 1 car, but in a winning Formula 1 car, it’s even cooler.

“It was a great opportunity for me, I have to thank Mr. Seidl [Andreas Seidl, McLaren team principal] and Zack [Brown, McLaren CEO] and everyone else for letting me borrow their car for the past two days.

Asked by The Race about his approach to the test, Herta said: “It’s hard to get in a race car and not drive it as fast as you can.

“So that was really the goal when I got here, to acclimatize, pick up some speed and really see what I could do in the race car. It was a lot of fun.

“It was a super special car to drive, which handled wonderfully. I was able to do some setup tweaks in the afternoon and get it more to my liking and everything.

“You always want to impress people with how fast you can drive a race car, no matter what the circumstances.

Herta said the McLaren’s responsiveness was a “completely different feel” partly because of the lack of power steering in IndyCar.

“The overall rebound and wheel softness is not quite what you would get in a Grand Prix car,” he said.

“So it 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 an idea and a fore- taste of what these things can do.

Asked what impressed him the most about the car, Herta said: “The first thing was releasing the pit speed limiter and all the torque is pretty amazing.

“Even when you’re at such low revs, it still pulls, so that was the most important thing for me.

“The straight line speed, acceleration, 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 ease with all that power putting the throttle down. That was the most important thing.

“It was pretty cool to see the balance changes and all the things you can do with the car, inside the car, which is way more than what we are capable of doing in IndyCar,” said he added.

“It was great, if you have a problem in one corner you can fix it in a jiffy.”

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Herta said he felt comfortable “right away” and like “I had reached the limit” in the middle of his first day, and on day two he was confident he could string together a lap on low- and high-fuel racing, but without the consistency that would come with more days in the car.

He said the winds and cooler air temperatures in Portimao than the previous two Grand Prix weekends at the track made it difficult to compare his lap times with those of previous years.

McLaren led Herta as it assessed who it will field in Grand Prix practice sessions this year, with 2022 F1 rules mandating two outings for drivers with experience of two Grands Prix or less.

Team principal Andreas Seidl said the first objective was to “give Colton a chance to get used to the car” before working on a wider performance programme.

“And I have to say the team was very impressed with the way Colton overcame all those challenges and his professional approach,” Seidl said.

“And what was great to also see that his physical preparation allowed him to really carry on throughout the two days, knowing how difficult it can be in a Formula 1 car on a track like Portimao.

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

“So yes, very happy with how the test went.”

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