Herta has first F1 test with McLaren in Portimao

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Colton Herta is trying out a Formula 1 car for the first time this week – starting today – with McLaren at Portugal’s Portimao circuit, the team confirmed.

The 22-year-old American who drives for Andretti Autosport in Indycar will be behind the wheel of last year’s McLaren MCL35M as part of the team’s Testing of Previous Cars (TPC) programme.

The southern Algarve circuit has hosted two F1 grands prix and McLaren are running their car from Monday to Wednesday with test and development driver Will Stevens also involved.

“The agreement with Colton is that we want to give him the chance to run our Formula 1 car to show what he’s actually able to do in such a car,” McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl told reporters.

“We have to do two times this year a (Friday) free practice session (at a grand prix) with a young driver.

“Once we have tested all the candidates who we want to give a chance in a TPC car we will make our mind up who will actually run this free practice session.”

The United States has not had a F1 driver since Alexander Rossi in 2015 but Herta is a strong candidate to end that wait for a sport that will have three grands prix in the country next year.

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In 2019 he became IndyCar’s youngest winner.

Michael Andretti has applied to the governing FIA for an entry to become the 11th team in the F1 championship by 2024 but that has met resistance from existing entries.

Zak Brown explained the rationale for signing Herta to the role “The potential is definitely there. If you look at his results in IndyCar, he’s extremely fast.

“He was Lando’s teammate in Europe many years ago, and Lando rates him very highly, so he has an extremely good chance and is very capable of being an F1 driver.

“That’s why we’re testing him, and one of these days should the stars align, which if the seats available and Colton is available and proves to us in testing that he’s capable, which we fully anticipate, then yes, I can see him in F1 whether with McLaren or another team.

“That would be additive to the great exposure that F1 already has in North America. We’ve got Las Vegas, we’ve only done Miami once, so we’re still in the early days of the rapid growth of F1,) reasoned Brown. (Reporting by Alan Baldwin)