Colton Herta received the full Formula 1 driver treatment last weekend at the Miami Grand Prix as a guest of the McLaren Racing team. From being photographed and commented upon for his fashion ensemble while entering the paddock (t-shirt, jeans, and sneakers) to sitting in on the engineering debriefing sessions with his fellow drivers, the NTT IndyCar Series star got his first proper taste of how an F1 weekend works from start to finish.
The experience will only help once he begins testing a 2021 McLaren MCL35-Mercedes later this year in the development and evaluation program McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown has crafted for his fellow Californian.
Awesome to be hanging out in the @F1 paddock this weekend. Seeing some familiar faces and meeting some new ones. Let’s see what the weekend bringspic.twitter.com/8J6HAwlszK
— Colton Herta (@ColtonHerta) May 5, 2022
“It was a lot of fun, but it’s always the worst feeling in the world for a driver, right, to go to a racetrack and not be able to drive,” Herta told RACER. “Obviously, with the ties to McLaren, I was able to see a lot more and I’d never been in that capacity where I was able to really see everything and look at all the data from the drivers, see the traces and how they do things. So it was very interesting. I learned a lot.”
At his four-car Andretti Autosport team, Herta is accustomed to debriefing with all drivers and engineers in a large gathering of minds and technical resources. Although the cars, technologies, and budgets are vastly different, Herta came away with an interesting realization about the inner workings of McLaren’s racing team.
“That was the surprising thing; what they do is the same that that we’re doing,” he said. “There was nothing they do that’s really different from how we do things, except they just have a lot more people because they have a lot more stuff to worry about that we don’t. Their cars have so many different things you can change, so many sensors and computers to look after where most of those things are spec on our cars. But operationally, once the team comes together after a session, it was surprising how similar it is.
“Everybody was very open to me being there and explained a lot of really good points. It was awesome to be able to see how everything works.”
As Herta was busy with McLaren obligations and various social functions related to his IndyCar sponsors on the No. 26 Honda, his team owner Michael Andretti was seen meeting with a number of F1 principals as part of an effort to bring Andretti Global to the grand prix paddock in 2024.
“I was staying with him in his condo in Miami, and then when we got to the track, obviously Gainbridge were there in a pretty big way, and had a suite there,” Herta explained. “So I was bouncing from the paddock to going up there and hanging out with everybody. I got to catch up with a lot of people, actually. From the driver’s side, I got to meet Daniel Ricciardo; really outgoing, lovely guy. Obviously got to talk with Lando [Norris] quite a bit. I hadn’t seen him in a long time. Got to talk to [Aston Martin team principal] Mike Krack who I know from our time at BMW, so it was good to see him. Got to talk to [Sebastian] Vettel, who I know through the Race of Champions. Good to see everybody.
“[Gainbridge CEO and Andretti Global backer] Dan [Towriss] was there, a lot of big hitters from the Guggenheim group, so it was really cool to meet them and obviously me and Michael were up there a bunch. I think it was an overall successful weekend for both of us.”