Lando Norris could be joined at McLaren one day by a driver he once called a “hooligan”.
Norris has become the F1 team’s number one driver thanks to his excellent form coupled with Daniel Ricciardo's continued struggles which have placed doubts over his future with the team. The Australian is contracted to the Woking outfit for 2023 and has stressed his commitment to both McLaren and F1 for next year.
There is reportedly a break clause in Ricciardo’s three-year contract, albeit in the 33-year-old’s favour, meaning a change of driver for 2023 would require a hefty compensation pay-out. But regardless of whether Ricciardo stays for next year or not, McLaren are looking to the future by handing tests to up-and-coming drivers currently racing in the US-based IndyCar series.
READ MORE: Ten candidates to replace Daniel Ricciardo at McLaren with Aussie's F1 future uncertain
One of those drivers is Colton Herta, who tested last year’s McLaren for two days in Portugal last week. Herta is regarded as the American driver most likely to make the F1 grid in the coming years and was linked with Alfa Romeo before Michael Andretti’s attempt to buy the Sauber-run team came to nothing. Andretti is Herta’s boss in IndyCar.
While few details have been released about Herta’s McLaren’s test, he is believed to have impressed and has made no secret of his desire to secure an F1 race seat one day. If he does join McLaren, he will need little introduction to Norris, with the pair being teammates at one stage in the junior categories in the mid-2010s.
Asked about him at the Miami Grand Prix earlier this season, where Herta was a guest of McLaren, Norris said: “I grew up with Colton, end of 2014-15, my first season of single-seaters. And I mean, his nickname is ‘Hooligan Herta’. Because there’s one place he was extremely strong and that’s high-speed corners.
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“And I feel like I’m decent, one of my strengths is pretty high-speed corners. But he was just like another level in some sorts. He would quite often go off because of it and maybe not crash, but just go through the gravel and we’d have to clean his car after because of how much dirt there was on it. But yeah, lovely guy, of course.
“I grew up with him when I was younger for a good year-and-a-half, two years. And just a bit crazy. A bit of a hooligan. It’s just nice to see him again.
“Nice to see him, from where we were back in 2014, 2015, to now myself being in Formula 1 and of course him winning races and being one of the stars in IndyCar, so yeah…hooligans.”
McLaren boss Zak Brown has spoken highly about Herta since his test, saying: “He’s been very impressive in IndyCar. He was Lando’s teammate not long ago in Europe, so he has European racing background so [our thinking is] let’s give him a go and see what he’s made of.”
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