Mario Andretti has heaped praise on American driver Colton Herta, comparing the 21-year-old to four-time former World Champion Sebastian Vettel and current title-holder Max Verstappen.
Herta’s name was frequently mentioned late last season when Andretti looked to purchase the Sauber-operated Alfa Romeo F1 team. The deal ultimately fell through, however Andretti are in the process of applying to be on the grid for 2024 as a completely new entry.
The young American has known open-wheel competition in Europe, finishing third in the Euroformula Open Championship and runner-up in the Spanish Formula 3 Championship.
The 21-year-old is currently embarking on his third year with Andretti in IndyCar on the back of a successful season in which he bagged two race victories and finished fifth in the 2021 championship.
Andretti believes Herta has the ability to find success in F1 and compared the IndyCar race winner’s talents to those of a World Champion.
“The kid is for real,” explained the 81-year-old, speaking to Racer.com. “I know what I’m talking about, I know when I see something.
“I said the same thing about Max when I first saw him. I said the same thing about Sebastian Vettel when he won Monza with Toro Rosso and things like that — I’ve been around long enough to see these things and I haven’t been wrong yet!”
When asked whether Andretti hopes to nurture young American talent in the future, the 1978 World Champion explained there are plans for his son, Michael, to also field Formula 2 and Formula 3 teams.
“Michael is a great believer of that – cultivating talent,” said Andretti. “He’s done that in the Indy series, bringing them through Indy Lights and all of those farm programs.
“That’s another thing — you don’t want to put the cart before the horse but he says once we are in there in the series, he says we will field a Formula 2 and Formula 3 team.
“This is long, long, long-term planning. And how many Formula 1 teams do that? Not too many. But they will, and that’s what Michael has done. How many teams in IndyCar are doing that? Not too many, but Michael is doing it.
“That’s his way of going about it, but he’s all-in in this sport. He has big plans for the future, for as long as he is able to participate in this sport.
“He’s young enough, so I think it’s individuals like Michael who can provide stability in this sport because we don’t come and go. It’s all we do, it’s all we know.”