McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown has revealed that the team are working on accommodating for IndyCar driver Colton Herta, but did not specify whether this will be at the expense of Daniel Ricciardo.
Ricciardo has not had an easy time of it since his arrival at McLaren, and he scored points on 13 occasions last season on his way to an eighth-placed Drivers’ Championship finish, 45 points behind Lando Norris who out-qualified him 15-7 while beating him in race trim by the same score.
The 32-year-old did claim the Woking side’s first win since 2012 at the Italian Grand Prix though, symbolising his capacity to repeat his splendid race-wining Red Bull form.
Herta revealed several weeks ago in a tongue in cheek comment that he hopes Norris starts beating the Australian more comprehensively to crank the door to Formula 1 open for him.
“If (Ricciardo) continues to build, I probably won’t have that opportunity, but hopefully Lando kicks his ass a bit more, so I can at least have a shot,” he said, before clarifying that he does not wish any ill on the 32-year-old.
“Obviously I’d never wish down on someone. I’m not praying for his downfall. If he does well, great for him – he deserves the seat,” he added.
As Formula 1 begins to cater for wider demographics, CEO Stefano Domenicali has suggested that he would love to incorporate an American driver into the sport provided they have the speed, and journalist Joe Saward indicated that it is possible that McLaren might replace Ricciardo before his current deal expires at the end of 2023.
“Daniel Ricciardo seems a little lost at McLaren and there continues to be rumours that in 2024 (if not earlier) Daniel will be replaced by Colton Herta, the American who Zak Brown believes could open the gates of Formula 1 to corporate America,” he wrote in his Blog.
“We will have to see if Herta has everything needed to be an F1 star, but he seems to have the speed.”
Brown revealed that the British team have set out a path for Herta to eventually enter the pinnacle of motorsport with the team, but did not elaborate on whether that would involve cutting Ricciardo’s contract early.
“Yes, we’ve now got a plan installed for Colton,” Brown told RACER.
“That’s up to (McLaren team principal) Andreas Seidl to communicate that outwardly when he’s ready to communicate it. But yes, we have a plan.”
Herta’s IndyCar colleague Patricio O’Ward described his McLaren test in Abu Dhabi in December as “crazy and insane times 10,” and he won two races in 2021 with McLaren Arrow SP, scoring five podiums on his way to a third-placed championship finish.
At this moment in time, Brown affirms that nothing is available to either of them, and affirmed that the team intend to see out the length of Ricciardo’s deal.
“Right now, we don’t have a seat available. Lando is under a very long-term contract [until 2025], so that seat is done. Daniel, we have another couple (of) years with him,” he explained.
Ricciardo sits 11th in the Drivers’ Standings after scoring points in his home race in Australia and in the Imola sprint race, but a combination of reliability issues, an underperforming car and a crucial error on the opening lap in Bologna last weekend has constrained his progress this season.