Saturday, 23 Oct, 2021

PRUETT: An open letter to Colton Herta

Colton, I see. Formula 1 has been your dream for almost as long as you’ve been living, and if everything I read is true, you could swap IndyCar for..


PRUETT: An open letter to Colton Herta

Colton, I see. Formula 1 has been your dream for almost as long as you’ve been living, and if everything I read is true, you could swap IndyCar for F1 with Andretti Autosport. So listen to me because if you haven’t made a final decision yet, all I can say is: please don’t do it.

In IndyCar you are on the cusp of something incredible. Sure, your Andretti team wasn’t ready to bring you or your teammates into the battle for the final championship, but that didn’t stop you from claiming three wins in the last two rounds you were with the field played, were crowned in a way reminiscent of drives I’ve seen from IndyCars greats of all time.

I had visions of a young Scott Dixon, Juan Pablo Montoya and Sebastien Bourdais taking these pole and racing victories, and I don’t want to see that go away. Not when you’re ready to lead IndyCar into the future with Alex Palou, Pato O’Ward, Rinus VeeKay and the rest of the next generation stars. On your current IndyCar trajectory, the 2020s could easily be remembered as the Herta decade, which is why the timing of an F1 switch fits so poorly.

Dixon was 23 when he won his first of six IndyCar titles; JPM was 24 in its championship CART season and Bourdais was 25 in Champ Car during the first of its four. It was only after securing one or more IndyCar crowns that the Colombian and French brought their talent to F1. Perhaps one can learn something from their decisions to wait.

If you’ve had a disappointing season or two and feel like the time is right for a change, I wouldn’t have any objections. But that certainly wasn’t the case as you closed the year as the hottest driver in IndyCar and destroyed everything in your path as momentum built from lap to lap.

Of course there is no guarantee that the Andretti team will push you into the IndyCar title fight next year, but with the takeover of Romain Grosjean and his race engineer Olivier Boisson and all of the experience and new ideas they will bring to the program, it’s hard to have anything but great optimism about your chances and the future in America.

Bourdais arrived in Formula 1 with four Champ Car titles in his back pocket. Glenn Dunbar / Motorsport Images

Do not get me wrong; with a call from Toto Wolff at Mercedes F1 or Christian Horner at Red Bull to drive one of their cars, the entire IndyCar community would wake up at odd hours on Sunday mornings and cheer you on from afar. What’s so unsettling is the prospect of seeing you buckled up under Andretti’s control – the ex-Alfa Romeo Racing Orlen – whatever the name, while driving like a demon, only to see the Schumachers, Mazepins, and Latifis keep companies in the Tailenders Club. What an epic waste of time and talent.

Unfortunately, the goal you could be heading for is a distant ninth out of 10 participants in the championship right now; In the past five years, the Sauber F1 / Alfa Romeo team was eighth at its best and last at its best. This kind of consistent mediocrity paints a worrying picture of how your F1 dream can easily turn into a nightmare.

You’ve seen a steady stream of disaffected F1 drivers who couldn’t stand being irrelevant any longer, turn to IndyCar and rediscover their passion for driving. Indeed, look no further than your teammates Alexander Rossi and Grosjean to learn where F1 dreams die as you battle for 17th place every week.

Rossi finally decided on IndyCar, won the 100th Indianapolis 500 on its debut and has even been second in the championship since leaving F1. Grosjean, the embodiment of all the positive things IndyCar has to offer, spent the last season looking and performing like a man released from a long and gruesome sentence in Grand Prix prison. Your examples serve as cautionary stories as to why I really hope you don’t tie yourself to F1 anonymity.

And that’s not meant to be a criticism of your skills or Andretti’s ability to transform the current Sauber / Alfa Romeo team into a more competitive organization. But how many years would it take to get there? How many seasons in your young prime would be sacrificed during this rebuilding process? Two? Three? Five? And how many IndyCar championships could be left on the table during the experiment?

There are, of course, questions about whether F1’s weird rigid licensing system would allow you (or Arrow McLaren SP’s Pato O’Ward) to get access to the starting field in the near future, but even with a super license in hand, you still talk about it To put aside your status as a multi-year IndyCar title contender for the humiliating depths of competitive poverty in Formula 1.

A warning story? Whichever way you look at it, Herta’s new stable mate from Andretti, Romain Grosjean, has been happier – and more successful – since he swapped F1 for IndyCar. Michael Levitt / Motorsport Pictures

Does it make sense to leave IndyCar as one of its most formidable stars to test your courage against Valtteri Bottas, the driver Mercedes cuts in favor of its young phenomenon, George Russell? Bottas is a serious operator; If you could beat the Finn it would certainly be an impressive feat. But would it lead to the Wolff or Horner calls mentioned above, or would it just prove that you can match or surpass Lewis Hamilton’s former number 2?

The only positive thing I can think of here is about your Honda IndyCar # 26. The rumor I’ve been hearing for a while is what could happen to the space you would give up, and if that information is correct, it could a move to F1 Andretti Autosports give new Indy Lights champion Kyle Kirkwood a first-class full-time job with the car you have won five victories since 2020. Instead of losing Kirkwood’s promotion after losing, would it be crazy to wish that you and Kirkwood – working with Rossi and Grosjean – would make Andretti’s IndyCar team the hell on 16 wheels?

No matter how the various results go through my head, I’ll keep coming back to IndyCar in a couple of years with a huge selection of skinny jeans and knitted hats and not much else for the F1 adventure. If it’s not with a team that regularly ends up in the top 10, why swap IndyCar wins and title fights just to see a thousand blue flags in F1?

And if your life is not complete without F1, let your team owner work its magic in the years to come and transform what could be called the Andretti Grand Prix into a program that can reward your potential.

Until then, stay here. Rely on your excellence. Put your face on the Borg Warner trophy. Add a few championship rings to your fingers. Start the process of becoming an all-timer. The Tailenders Club is the last place you belong.

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