Ahead of this weekend’s IndyCar race in Toronto, Canada, 22-year-old Colton Herta made his test-debut for the McLaren F1 Team at the Algarve International Circuit.
The young driver is regarded as one of the most exciting drivers to have emerged from America, having already taken IndyCar by storm at such a young age.
Herta has been placed on McLaren’s developmental programme, which sees drivers take part in tests using the team’s old machinery.
For the two-day test in Portugal, Herta was behind the wheel of McLaren’s MCL35M, the 2021 car which saw the British side return to winning ways at the Italian Grand Prix.
The test clearly filled the American with confidence. Herta backed-up his impressive test with pole position at the Toronto IndyCar.
Herta is currently the youngest-ever driver to win an IndyCar race, having claimed his inaugural victory at just 18-years-old.
Herta found the test a “big step” up, having never driven “anything” like an F1 car before.
“It was the braking and acceleration that was the big step,” Herta explained.
“The amount of power in acceleration compared to the IndyCar is quite high, especially in the higher gears. Even when the RPM is low, it still pulls really hard, so it’s really fast. It’s a different car and requires a different driving style, but it was a lot of fun.
“I got a lot of different running in. Learning the battery in hybrid cars was new to me and that took a bit of getting used to, but once that was out of the way it felt pretty seamless because of how good the engineers are at getting you up to speed.
“It’s not easy to drive [a Formula 1 car] but I feel like I made really big steps in the two days. It was different from anything I’ve ever driven before but it felt pretty seamless.
“It was amazing, I had a bunch of fun and everyone was really cool and helpful.”
McLaren were also left very impressed with Herta’s performance, with it now being believed that the IndyCar driver is the most likely candidate to make the switch from the American series to F1.
Originally, Arrow McLaren SP IndyCar driver Pato O’Ward, was believed to be the favourite to put pressure on Daniel Ricciardo in the future, having performed well himself during a test with the team following the 2021 season finale.
However, Herta appears to have moved ahead of his IndyCar rival.
McLaren’s Senior Principal Car Performance Engineer, Mark Temple, was encouraged by Herta’s communication with the team; however, Temple did admit that the American driver initially struggled at the circuit’s challenging first corner.
“He was very good at discussing what was going on with the car,” Temple said of Herta in a feature on the team’s website.
“The first area drivers usually take a little bit of time to learn is how much speed they can carry into the high-speed corners. Turn 1 at Portimao is quite fast and requires commitment – you really have to throw the car in and so naturally it took him quite a while to build up there.
“The other area was braking. Working out how late to brake and getting the balance between braking and steering right when going into the corners so you can carry as much speed as possible without hurting the exits. Those are areas where he progressed and built on during the test,” Temple concluded.