The Federation Internationale de l'Automobile said Friday that Colton Herta will not be granted a Super License, denying the American driver and IndyCar star the license needed to compete in Formula 1. In a statement shared by the Associated Press, the FIA confirmed that Herta would not receive a Super License, citing an enquiry made "via the appropriate channels".
The FIA's decision comes despite interest in Herta from Red Bull Racing, which had considered hiring the Santa Clarita, Calif. driver to race for its junior team AlphaTauri. Herta had been mix to replace Pierre Gasly, who Red Bull had been willing to allow to move to Alpine to replace Fernando Alonso in the event they could have hired Herta to fill his seat.
At the center of the issue is the FIA licensing system, particularly the way it grades IndyCar racing compared to series that are FIA-sanctioned. While IndyCar is the premier open-wheel racing series in North America and features great crossover with Formula 1 -- 2022 Indianapolis 500 winner Marcus Ericsson, for instance, raced in F1 from 2014 until 2018 -- the series is not governed by the FIA and thus does not award as many points toward a Super License as the junior feeder series to F1, such as F2 and F3.
Herta finished the 2022 IndyCar season with 32 points, eight less than the 40 needed for a super license. Theoretically, Herta could still earn a Super License by picking up one point for free practice sessions (McLaren has a testing contract with McLaren), or by picking up points in an FIA-sanctioned winter series. The situation could also be resolved by the FIA granting Herta an exemption, but he has gone on record in stating that he would rather not receive one.
The purpose of the Super License system is to encourage driver talent as the motivating factor for drivers to be hired by F1 teams. However, critics of the system -- particularly those in IndyCar -- have pointed out that Formula 1's feeder series often feature many "pay drivers" who are hired because they bring financial backing to the teams they drive for rather than pure driving talent.
IndyCar star Alexander Rossi -- Herta's teammate at Andretti Autosport and the most recent American driver to race in F1 -- responded to the issue last Saturday with a lengthy post on his Twitter account in which he declared that he was "sick and tired" of the discourse concerning the Super License system.
"Motorsport still remains as the most high profile sport in the world where money can outweigh talent," Rossi wrote. "What is disappointing and in my opinion, the fundamental problem, is that the sporting element so often took a backseat to the business side that there had to be a method put in place in order for certain teams to stop taking drivers solely based on their financial backing.
"Ultimately these past decisions, whether out of greed or necessity, is what cost Colton the opportunity to make the decision for himself as to if he wanted to alter career paths and race in F1. Not points on a license."
Since his arrival on the IndyCar scene, Herta has been viewed as perhaps the most qualified candidate to become the first American to race in F1 since Rossi drove for Marussia between 2014 and 2015. Herta became the youngest driver ever to win an IndyCar race in 2019, and he has since earned seven total career wins with a best finish of third in points in 2020.