1978 Formula 1 world champion Mario Andretti has revealed that IndyCar racer Colton Herta came close to joining the Alfa Romeo team this year, but the deal fell through.
Herta raced with Carlin in a variety of European championships in 2016, claiming four race wins in total that year and ending up in the top three in two of the four championships he contested.
He raced alongside now household F1 names such as Lando Norris, Alex Albon and George Russell.
Fast forward five years, and he has added another 14 wins to his name in the United States, competing in IndyCar, IndyLights and sports car racing.
He also became IndyCar’s youngest ever race winner in 2019 at the Circuit of the Americas.
His tremendous pace behind the wheel of both single-seaters and sports cars is evident to see, and it very nearly earned him a place on the grid ahead of the 2022 season.
“Colton was in Europe at 15 years of age and was driving alongside established Formula 1 drivers right now like Lando Norris,” Andretti said.
“He went through the ranks and he won everything, and now he gets to the top level here in the States and wins here too.
“Not by strategy, but by pure speed and elegant, super driving.”
He revealed that, by the end of the week he spent with Alfa Romeo, he eventually went quicker on the simulator than their driver pairing of Antonio Giovinazzi and Kimi Raikkonen.
“When we were talking about the Sauber deal, which was almost done, he spent a week in their wind tunnel and by the third day he was quicker than Giovinazzi and Raikkonen on the simulator.
“I couldn’t wait to put him in a Formula 1 car and it was always going to happen [be announced] in Abu Dhabi but the deal fell through.
“The owners wanted to stay on with 20 per cent and wanted to have full control, so there’s no way we could go with that.”
What the 78-year-old admires most about is compatriot is his ability to perform and a lack of any tendencies to bemoan not having the perfect machinery behind him.
“The best quality he has as a driver is he compensates,” he added.
“He doesn’t need to have a perfect race car to be able to perform. I have seen that over and over again and he just gets on with it.
“Of course we try to get him the best set-up and everything, but he doesn’t despair if the car isn’t perfect.”
As a result, the former Lotus driver believes Herta has all the tools to one day become a champion.
“[The challenge is] to go and find a way and that is the quality of a champion. That’s where he has been impressing me,” he explained.
“In his own quiet and determined way he just goes about it and gets the job done. It’s a quality that’s rare, believe me.”
Herta will continue to race in IndyCar and the IMS SportsCar Championship in 2022, while Alfa Romeo will line up with Valtteri Bottas and Guanyu Zhou..