Herta signs Andretti IndyCar extension for 4 years until 2027

Colton Herta has signed a four-year contract extension with Andretti Autosport, tying the American racer to the IndyCar team until 2027, showing Herta has put his Formula 1 ambitions on hiatus.

The extension, announced Tuesday, is significant because it keeps the biggest teams in IndyCar from poaching Herta when his current contract with Andretti expires at the end of the 2023 season. And it suggests that both he and team owner Michael Andretti have accepted that neither will be on the F1 grid any time soon.

The extension stipulates that Herta will drive the No. 26 Andretti Autosport entry in IndyCar with sponsorship from loyal partner Gainbridge, who signed a concurrent extension.

“Colton is a true talent in a racing car and has a natural determination that makes him want to win,” said Michael Andretti. “We are really proud to represent Gainbridge. We share a commitment to compete at the highest level and look forward to seeing Colton return to victory in the yellow and black Gainbridge livery.”

It ends a roller-coaster year for 22-year-old Herta, who at times seemed poised to become the first American driver on the F1 grid since Alexander Rossi in 2015. His chance was sunk by the FIA, the governing body for F1, which would not grant Herta the super license required to compete in the global series.

The extension also shows a certain resignation that Andretti Global will not be in the current 10-team formula 1 grid in the foreseeable future. Michael Andretti, with some support from Gainbridge, had hoped to persuade the FIA ​​to expand the grid to include two American cars with Herta as one of the drivers.

But existing F1 teams are reluctant to network expansion and wealth redistribution and while Herta was free to leave Andretti for an F1 opportunity, the lack of a super license has currently relegated him to IndyCar.

“I’m super happy and grateful for everything the entire teams at Andretti and Gainbridge have done for me,” Herta said in a statement issued by Andretti. “This is a big step for me professionally and I’m so happy that I can do it with a top team like Andretti Autosport. We have big goals and a lot of work ahead of us, but I couldn’t be happier to do it with this team and to represent Gainbridge.”

From an IndyCar perspective, the signing is huge: the No. 10 at Chip Ganassi Racing is expected to open when Alex Palou joins McLaren in 2024, reigning series champion Will Power enters a contract year at Team Penske on the No. 12, and The six-time IndyCar champion Scott Dixon will be 43 next season – his 21st year with Ganassi.

There was also a lot of F1 hype surrounding Herta, who signed a testing deal with McLaren this year. But Herta is currently missing the points needed to earn F1’s mandatory license, in large part because IndyCar is underrated in the ranking system. The FIA ​​doesn’t rule IndyCar or NASCAR on the matter, essentially rating both as mid-pack series.

Red Bull had requested that Herta, a seven-race winner who became IndyCar’s youngest-ever winner in 2019 days before his 19th birthday, be granted a super license waiver. Had the FIA ​​not refused, Red Bull would have hoped to bring Herta into their junior team AlphaTauri next season.

Herta’s lack of a license essentially closed the door to Formula One for now, and the Californian didn’t even compete in the United States Grand Prix in Austin, Texas last week.

Herta was a popular figure at the Miami Grand Prix in May when he attended as a guest of McLaren, asked to be seated in the F1 car and asked for a diagram of the steering wheel. When Herta showed up at a McLaren F1 test two months later in full preparation, he delighted on track, word spread and rival teams suddenly developed an interest in landing the American.

Meanwhile, McLaren were courting too many drivers to count and Herta found themselves out of the rotation when the team announced they would comply with F1’s development driver rule by having Palou (a Spaniard) in free practice one of the US GP and Pato O’ Ward (a Mexican) in Abu Dhabi in the season finale.

Australian rising star Oscar Piastri was brought in for McLaren’s second seat on the 2023 grid and Herta was officially out of the McLaren schedule.

There is now also less urgency around Herta Williams plans to promote Florida F2 driver Logan Sargeant to F1 next year, the 21-year-old should win his super license by the end of the season. That would give Williams the win in the America’s Newest Driver standings from the fastest growing market of F1.

The 2023 season will be Herta’s fifth in IndyCar. Gainbridge has been Andretti’s top partner since 2018.

Herta will be the Andretti veteran in a lineup that lost Indianapolis 500 winners Rossi and Ryan Hunter-Reay this year.

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