As rumors circulate about Daniel Ricciardo’s future in F1, there has been talk of the impact his potential replacement could have in the sport.
The American who is considered the biggest threat to Daniel Ricciardo’s future at McLaren says he has “serious ambitions” to become a Formula 1 driver.
Speculation is piling up that Ricciardo’s F1 career could be in jeopardy McLaren confirms it is preparing for the long haul by offering 22-year-old IndyCar prodigy Colton Herta a development contract.
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McLaren CEO Zak Brown has said there is “no rush” to decide what’s next for Ricciardowhose contract expires at the end of 2023, but internal discussions will begin later this year.
“We like to think long, so we’re doing some testing… with Colton,” Brown said earlier this month.
“So I don’t think you can ever plan too early, but there’s no rush.”
Speaking on the F1 Nation podcast this week, Herta opened up his desire to make it in F1, either with McLaren or another team.
“It’s a serious ambition of mine,” he said.
“There are a lot of things that, you know, when I’m done racing, I want to be able to say I’ve done that. And Formula 1 is pretty high on the list for one of those things, isn’t it?
“I wanted to go to IndyCar, I wanted to go to Indy 500, of course I still want to win the Indy 500, which I haven’t done yet.
“There’s a big list of different races, events and series that I want to be a part of, and Formula 1 is definitely higher on the list than many things.”
As for his upcoming test drive in the McLaren MCL35M, Herta declined to reveal exactly when it would take place, but said it was crucial that he performed well in the test.
“I probably would (reveal the date), but I don’t know, I could be in trouble, so I’m not going to,” he said.
“But that will be later in the year. I can say I’m going to Woking (McLaren’s UK base) in June for a seat adjustment and then some simulator stuff. So I’m looking forward to that.
“The last time I was there was in 2019… I think I did a sim for a day. Didn’t really see the factory which I hope I get a nice tour of.
“I know they’re very secretive about everything, so hopefully I can see all the details, but yeah, that’s the first step. And then of course testing later in the year, which is going to be fantastic – I’m really looking forward to it.
“You know I want to be in F1 at some point in my career, and of course time is essential for that, so it will be very important to do a good job in the test and hopefully open some doors.
“As far as I’m concerned I don’t have a race seat at the moment, I don’t have a contract for it, so anything can happen. I hope if this doesn’t lead to anything at McLaren it will get people talking. Maybe a door will open if I can get in the car fast enough.”
Herta wishes Ricciardo no harm, but knows if the bad form of the australian the door opens a crack for him to take a seat at McLaren.
“If (Ricciardo) continues to build, I probably won’t get that chance,” Herta told the Indianapolis star.
‘Of course I would never wish anyone down. I don’t pray for his downfall. If he does well, great for him – he deserves the seat.
“I think it’s all in his hands for the future.”
More broadly, experts believe having an American driver on the grid represents the final frontier of F1’s expansion into the US and would “work wonders” for the sport.
“Yeah sure,” said veteran motorsport commentator Leigh Diffey on the In the fast lane podcast when asked if Herta would become an F1 driver, catapult the sport into the next stratosphere.
“And it’s not just because he’s young and good. He also has the connections.
“Gainbridge had signage all over the Miami Grand Prix circuit this weekend and Gainbridge, along with Michael Andretti and Zak Brown – of course McLaren has offered Colton a testing program – he has Gainbridge behind him.
“So if you have an insurance company willing to write a pretty big check, that’s not a bad place to be.”
“Formula 1 has gone out to a wider audience in the US. We have a much larger percentage of the public’s attention here. Now they need someone to cheer for.
“Hare, you can touch those parochial hearts by being an American team.
“But to have someone there, a young California boy, whose father was a racer, his father raced a Minardi Formula One car many years ago – there are those connections.
“They love Colton in IndyCar and if he could be there (F1) I think it would be a huge step.
“Colton has the eyes of Zak Brown and Michael Andretti (on him) and who knows where Michael’s Formula 1 ambitions will go if they let in an 11th team.
Other than that, just Colton as a driver and if he’s on the list and they’re going to put him there and if he tests well I think it would do wonders and even greater things for this country and Formula 1 in the United States. States.”
Herta is certainly doing a lot of good so far. He won the Indianapolis Grand Prix this weekend and is currently sixth in the IndyCar standings.
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