PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — Colton Herta receives a buzz on his phone alerting him every time his name is linked to a Formula One seat next season with AlphaTauri.
The speculation is so rampant that Herta said Friday he's stopped reading the reports. He's also informed his father, who acts as his agent, not to brief him on any discussions and leave him alone to finish the final two races of the IndyCar season.
“There's nothing I want to talk about right now. I just want to focus on these last two weekends and have a little bit of time to decompress and figure out what's going on during the offseason,” Herta told The Associated Press. "I told my Dad, he's been handling all my management things, I told him 'I don’t want to talk about it, I don't want to deal with it, I just want to finish the season.'
“And then we'll look at the options and see if I have any.”
The 22-year-old Californian is considered the top candidate to become the first American on the F1 grid since Alexander Rossi in 2015. Herta has a testing contract with McLaren and in July took part in a two-day test for the team at Portimao in Portugal.
He's got nothing else lined up at this time and McLaren officially won the rights to F2 champion Oscar Piastri on Friday when F1's contract review board ruled the Australian is free to leave Alpine. Piastri will be teammates with Lando Norris for McLaren next season and that officially closed one option for Herta.
Herta has one year remaining on his IndyCar contract with Andretti Autosport but team owner Michael Andretti has said he'd not hold his young driver back from an F1 opportunity. However, Andretti is trying to land his own F1 team to be built around Herta and was close last year to a deal to acquire Alfa Romeo Racing.
When that deal fell apart, Andretti shifted his focus toward asking F1 to expand its grid to an additional two Andretti Global entries for 22 cars among 11 teams. F1 CEO Stefano Domenicali has said there have been multiple inquiries from interested parties wanting to join the grid.
Now comes speculation that both AlphaTauri might be for sale, giving Andretti another shot at buying an existing team, and that Herta is being eyed for a seat. Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda currently drive for AlphaTauri, but Gasly's name has been mentioned for multiple open seats on F1.
Herta, who has seven career IndyCar victories and heads into Sunday's penultimate race of the season ranked a career-low 10th in the series standings, repeated Friday he's content racing in the United States. He also said he wouldn't take a seat in F1 just to become an F1 driver.
“It depends on a lot of things. I want to be happy about where I am, where I am living, the team I am with. I just need to be comfortable,” Herta told The AP. “There's a lot of different factors that go into making a decision of when you do switch teams and it's nothing I've started delving into just yet.
“I wouldn't just go there to be there. I would need to understand exactly what I was getting into, which I don't right now. So we just have to wait and see what options really exist for me.”
Herta initially pursued European racing early in his career and moved to England alone as a teenager. But when his opportunities dried up he returned to the United States ahead of the 2017 Indy Lights season and won six races over two seasons.
It's not been enough to earn him the required points for the license required to compete in F1, and although it has been floated that the FIA may examine his body of work and offer Herta an exemption, he said Friday he has no idea where any of that stands.
“There's so much being said and speculated, I get the notifications on my phone all day. I just make them all say ‘Read’ and I don't even read the articles,” he said. “Honestly, everyone else knows more than I do at this point.”
Herta even declined to speculate on where he might drive in 2023.
“No, no. I mean, I have a contract with Andretti for next year and I don't have anything else right now,” Herta said. “I think there are some guys in this series, even if they were offered an F1 seat, they wouldn't want it because they like racing in IndyCar so much. Nobody should be ashamed to be an IndyCar driver.”
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