Saturdays don’t usually start with driver news, so to see a story about Colton Herta signing an F1 development deal with McLaren was a shock to wake up to.
First, let’s look at what the deal is NOT:
It will not affect his Indycar schedule.
Herta will not participate in the first free practice on Friday of a Grand Prix weekend as of now, but there are two opportunities in the United States- Miami in May and Austin in October- which might change that. It is unlikely.
The deal does not affect Pato O’Ward’s status with McLaren. O’Ward is still a long way from F1.
Herta is not in line for a McLaren Formula 1 ride. Lando Norris is locked for several years, Daniel Riccardo is believed to have a contract through 2023.
The deals allows Herta to test in a Formula 1 car. The program allows testing in a 2021 or older car. This program is to develop drivers, not equipment.
From what I have seen, McLaren CEO Zak Brown is helping Michael Andretti should Andretti’s bid to gain entry into Formula 1 for 2024 is successful. He will have a young American driver with some familiarity with F1 machinery.
I think this allows Herta fans the best of both worlds. He will be in Indycar for at least two more seasons, while getting time in an F1 car. After that we will see what happens. Herta will be a great story to follow in F1.
Perhaps we could look ahead to 2026. After a fierce battle between O’Ward and Herta for the Indycar championship, both end up in F1 on teams that are equal. They fight each other all year for points.
The bottom line is I would hate for either of them to leave Indycar, but to get to F1, they just have a couple years if they want to make the move.