The FIA’s Super License system has recently become the subject of debate within Formula 1 especially after Red Bull expressed their interest in U.S. IndyCar driver Colton Herta.
The problem for Colton Herta though, is that he does not have enough Super License point to be given the permission to drive an F1 car, as the FIA awards points differently to IndyCar drivers compared to their Formula 2 counterparts.
Red Bull are interested in placing Herta a AlphaTauri to replace Pierre Gasly who is reportedly eyed by Alpine to replace Fernando Alonso, and the energy drinks outfit are looking to get the American an exemption for lack of sufficient points.
As almost every subject in F1, there was no agreement around the Herta-to-F1 matter, some agreeing on the exemption, others not.
Some also asked that the whole Super License system be changed, while voices stateside criticized the unfair treatment IndyCar and Nascar drivers receive by F1 and the FIA.
So is the FIA Super License system fair or unfair? A new edition of TeamTalk discusses.
Kevin Melro: Yes for Super License, no for its points
The Super License itself is an appropriate requirement which merits its existence through the possibility for it to be revoked, it’s fair across the board.
The dilemma is that the Super License points system is conceptually flawed right from its inception; not how the points are spread and accumulated but rather the existence of the system itself.
Much of the basis for the points’ requirement element introduced in 2016 was designed to forbid the fast tracking of drivers, more specifically the fast tracking of under-18 drivers as was the case with Max Verstappen, who competed in his first F1 race aged 17 and a half-ish to the absolute dismay of the F1 community; apparently.
Clearly there’s more to this system than the FIA have led on, as the argument that drivers under 18 aren’t capable of competently conducting themselves properly on a circuit in a modern day F1 car to the standards set out by the FIA, doesn’t hold water.
Worse yet, the fact that the points system still exists today as originally inspired to prevent another “Max Verstappen” from ever happening again is an absolute insult to the essence of racing.
The knock-on effect of the points system has resulted in an unreasonable emphasis being put on the financial power of prospective drivers despite many disputing this claim.
It’s an undeniable fact that money has always been a driving factor towards launching a successful F1 entry and career, but it has seemingly become the only factor, or so it appears anyways.
The peak of unfairness and where the worst crime of all is taking place, is that the emphasis on money ends the career of nearly every F1-aspiring karter barely into their racing tenure.
I refer to the not-so-inspiring words of Jacques Villeneuve who back in 2019 wisely advised parents interested in a racing career for their kids, who said: “Tell him to do something else”.
Ultimately, what has not changed and will never change regardless whether a plausible qualifying instrument might exist are the limited seats available on the F1 grid, but the Super License points system does little to justify the talent in the current seats, and that’s not fair to anybody.
Mark Kay: Playing another party’s game implies playing it according to their rules
It is a straightforward argument for me that the FIA Super License system is fair and just, and my perspective is based on an understanding and acceptance of the facts as opposed to the fiction of who has the right of authority over the sport, and what the underpinning rationale behind the system being implemented was.
The concept of F1 being some form of perfect utopia that is the collective property of the global motorsport community is completely imaginary, because the reality is that even though its commercial rights were allocated to SLEC Holdings in 2001 for 100 years, F1 is and has always been the property of FISA, which is now the FIA.
Accordingly, the argument that the Super License system is somehow unfair is futile, because unless an aggrieved party is a constituent of the ownership interests of the sport, it has no claim whatsoever relating to how the FIA administers its own property.
When the Super License was first introduced to F1 in the 1990’s, applications were evaluated on an individual and seemingly ad-hoc basis, and there were repeated suspicions over the years that even exchanges of brown paper bags containing foldable pieces of paper had taken place in the pursuance of the approval of specific applications.
Nevertheless, the FIA introduced the current three years’ points accumulation system in 2015 in response to what was viewed as an unnecessary and accelerated approval of Max Verstappen’s Super License application, which is contrary to the often wrongly reported reasoning that it was introduced to deter the awarding of licenses to pay drivers.
The system was designed on purpose to ensure that greater value is placed on achievements gained by drivers in its own second tier Championship competitions, which is, once again, fully justifiable given that those competitions also belong to the FIA and were instituted as feeder series to its own apex competition, a very sound commercial raison, and also gave it much greater control over the quality assurance of the talent going into F1.
In my mind it should matter little to the FIA that there might be drivers capable of competing in F1 in other less weighted categories who do not qualify for a Super License due to not accumulating sufficient points anyway because the harsh reality is that the sport is and never has been lacking in the quantity and quality of elite talent that it demands.
Furthermore, as the cost cap gradually settles on the sport with its full impact over the next couple of years, and the value of the teams increases, the need for pay drivers will come to an end and all drivers on the grid will only be there on merit anyway.
David Terrien: F1 is changing, so should the Super License System
Let me start by saying this: Fair or not the Super License has been mandatory for a bit more than 30 years.
There have always been gentlemen drivers or rich kids having easier access to F1, but there came a time where institutions decided to limit the access to F1 with the introduction of a Super License.
Who can complain about this? It has been done to make the sport safer, but it was mainly introduced to favour access to F1 to extremely talented drivers versus paying drivers.
Some can argue that it was also done to push for a “standard path to F1” while awarding big points to the selected single seater series leading to F1. This is actually one of the reasons why we have very well recognized F2 and F3 Championships, with great grids, complementing the F1 weekend with great races, and where we can observe the development of future F1 stars.
So, we could say: The Super License was necessary, and it created a full package around F1 where F2 and F3 stars are creating a show and can perform and rise in the limelight, everyone is happy.
But the reality is different, and Super License rules have changed since their first implementation in 1990. In the last 32 years, some great talents had meteoric paths to F1.
Look at Kimi Raikkonen, Jarno Trulli, Giancarlo Fisichella, Max Verstappen, and Michael Schumacher; just to name a few. None of them drove F2, or F3000 when there was no F2. In the current Super License point system, neither Verstappen, nor Schumacher or Alonso would have acquired the necessary minimum points to get the license.
I am very much in support of the Super License but it won’t stop money from ruling in the lower classes and drivers with less talent reaching the pinnacle of motorsport.
On the other side, rules should not stop a superstar to make his way up to F1 in 1 or 2 seasons after Karting. It should also allow racers participating in non-European based championships to score more points.
Rules should also leave the window opened to special cases as there could be a validation system for drivers with a great track record but falling short of a few points to qualify for the license.
Rules could apply to the winner of any championship awarding Super License but being short of the 40 points. It could then be based on the result of an F1 test.
Tests should happen on the Friday of a race weekend during FP1. There should be a mathematical way to define a target lap time taking into consideration the team/car, tyres, fuel load and relative teammate performance. If the lap time is met, points should be validated and Super License awarded.
I am not really interested about Colton Herta’s situation and I don’t know enough about his background to give an opinion about him deserving to be in F1 or not. I just think this type of cases should be left to a test, forming part of the Super License rules and applicable when needed.
F1 is changing. Safety Car, Virtual Safety Car, and Red Flag rules have to change and adapt, same applies to the Super License system.
Jad Mallak: Stop ranting and nagging, discuss and change
The subject of the FIA Super License has been the talk of the Formula 1 town for some now, and in particular after the news broke that Red Bull were considering American IndyCar driver Colton Herta for a seat at AlphaTauri, their sister team, should incumbent Pierre Gasly be released to join Alpine replacing Fernando Alonso.
But Herta does not have enough points to acquire the Super License needed to drive in F1, as Red Bull are seeking an exemption for the U.S. driver, a request F1 rivals are opposed to and rightly so if I am honest.
This has ignited discussions around the FIA’s Super License system, which isn’t not fair, and with Zak Brown even asking for it to be changed, not to mention Alexander Rossi’s recent tweet/rant.
— Alexander Rossi (@AlexanderRossi) September 17, 2022
For me I feel that all these statements or opinions regarding the FIA’s licensing system cannot be taken objectively, as every person with a certain stance on the matter is driven by his/her own interests.
In fact, and instead of nagging about the system being unfair, why not launch a serious discussion with the FIA about the pros and cons of the system, while involving IndyCar as well since complaints are always aired for lack of cross-overs from the American series to F1.
If the discussions lead to common grounds sufficient to change the system, then by all means change it, keeping in mind that no outcome would be perfect because while the current system is far from perfect – Latifi is driving an F1 car after all – there are no guarantees that a new or revised one will be, as such regulations should be subject to continuous development.
Now on the particular case of Herta, I am fully against giving him an exemption, and no one should cry foul or unfair. As we stand this is the system and it doesn’t allow him to drive in F1. An exception will open a can of worms and this is the last thing we need now.
If Red Bull believe Herta is the next big thing, give him a few FP1 outings before the end of the season, and let him accumulate the points he needs to get the Super License, otherwise keep quiet.
My gut feeling is that Herta is not the real deal. He hasn’t won the IndyCar Championship to begin with, and McLaren have tested him in their car but didn’t offer him a drive despite their positive statements about his test.
Instead, they moved heaven and earth to have Piastri in their car.
The whole thing goes down to having an American driver in F1 with all the increase in the sport’s popularity stateside, and that is what Red Bull may be seeking to capitalize on.
If they think the marketing exposure they get from having Herta at AlphaTauri is worth it, I repeat, give him FP1 outings and let him accumulate points.
Having any American driver in F1 just for the sake of it is plain wrong and will backfire should this driver fail to make it. It will only serve to disillusion the American fans when they see their hero getting his ass kicked race in, race out.
The only positive that could come from this noise around the Super License system is that maybe, just maybe, someone will do the right thing and start a calm and rational discussion around it, re-evaluate it and make the required changes.