McLaren impressed as Herta eyes more F1 chances

Sam Cooper
Colton Herta watches on during Indy 500 qualifying. United States May 2021

Colton Herta watches on during Indy 500 qualifying. United States May 2021

Colton Herta said he believes he is fast enough for F1 after driving the McLaren MCL35 for the first time at the Portimao circuit.

The 22-year-old drove last year’s car as part of the Testing of Previous Cars (TPC) provision which is granted to teams and will run for three days.

Herta races for Andretti Autosport in IndyCar but has been the subject of increasing rumours that he could be on the verge of a switch to F1 with McLaren seeming the most likely destination.

He was signed to the team as a development driver earlier this season and the trip around Portimao represented his first opportunity at testing an F1 car.

Speaking after the second day, Herta said it was a special feeling to have your first test in a car that has won a race.

“It was a lot of fun, great two days getting acclimated to the car, which is obviously a quite a bit different to what I’m used to driving,” Herta told reporters.

“A little bit of a different driving style. But the engineers were very helpful 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 race winning Formula 1 car is even cooler.

“It was a great opportunity for me, I have to thank Mr Seidl [Andreas Seidl, McLaren team principal] and Zak [Brown, McLaren CEO] and everybody for allowing me to borrow their car for the last two days.”

The American admitted that his goal was to go as quick as he could and that he wanted to impress the people who were watching on.

“It’s hard to get in a race car and not drive it as fast as you possibly can,” he said.

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

“It was a car that was super special to drive, that handled beautifully. I was able to make some set-up adjustments in the afternoon and get it more to my liking and stuff.

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

Herta was also asked if he believed he was fast enough and said that while he does, time will tell if McLaren agree with him.

“You can’t say no to that question or else you wouldn’t be a professional driver,” Herta replied. “I do think I’m fast enough.

“Whether they agree or not, I guess time will tell. Hopefully I can get some more chances in the car and kind of show.”

Seidl he was impressed with how Herta dealt with the challenges.

“I have to say, the team was quite impressed how Colton was dealing with all these challenges and with his professional approach.

“And what was great to see as well that his physical preparation was enabling him to really keep going throughout the two days, knowing how challenging this can be in a Formula 1 car on a track like Portimao.

“And in the end, his approach together with the team allowed him really to build up pace gradually, gain confidence and also finding always the right balance between taking risk and still keeping the car on the track, which is obviously important as well on a test like this.

“So very happy with how the test went.”