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Superlicence system needs reviewing, says Brown


With the current superlicence system presenting a stumbling block to Colton Herta's entry to F1, McLaren boss, Zak Brown is calling for a review.

For Liberty Media a fully-fledged American driver lining up on the grid at Miami, Las Vegas and COTA next season would be a dream, and no doubt the producers of Drive to Survive are already working on the script.

However, there is the little matter of the superlicence that all drivers must have in order to compete in F1 and the American simply doesn't have the points to qualify.

With 32 points, Herta is 8 short of the 40 needed to qualify for the superlicence, which has led to AlphaTauri calling on the FIA to make an exception, citing the 2020 IndyCar season, when he finished third, but there was a reduced number of races due to COVID, and the 2018 Indy Lights series, in which he was runner-up, but which didn't feature the required number of entries.

The Faenza-based outfit is keen to recruit Herta, which would free up Pierre Gasly who wants to join Alpine, but speaking at the weekend, team boss, Franz Tost was unsure if Herta will get approval, which would require the intervention of the FIA.

"It's a decision from the FIA whether he gets the superlicence or not," said the Austrian, "and I hope that FIA will take this decision as soon as possible so that we know how to build up the team and where to go for next year."

Asked what needs to be done to get Herta his licence and whether AlphaTauri is considering running him in FP1 sessions in a bid to boost his points, Tost said: "This is a question you have to ask the FIA, because there's a regulation and if the FIA wants to change anything, then this is one side.

"We, from our side, will support it of course," he added. "If it's necessary to run in FP1 then we will run him in FP1. Yeah, we will do everything what is being requested."

A number of team bosses have voiced their concern at the rules being 'manipulated' in order to get Herta to the grid, with support coming from F1 boss, Stefano Domenicali.

"The sport needs to respect the rules," he said recently. "Of course, American drivers, or other drivers, are very important. If he is eligible to come in F1 because he has the points, it's fantastic news.

"But there is a ladder to follow," he warned, "there is a protocol to respect, and that is the situation. So it's really what I believe is right to do."

Asked if he feels the current system needs review, Domenicali said: "I don't think it's right to change something retrospectively, I think it's the right thing to do to apply the rules. And if there is some point to be to discussed, if there is a need to update the rules, there is the right forum on which everyone can bring ideas or points for discussion.

"But today, the rule is that one should be respected. That's my opinion."

Zak Brown, who appears to be in the process of signing up numerous drivers from IndyCar for his teams' various projects, doesn't agree.

"Mohamed (ben Sulayem), the new president, he's doing a lot of reviewing of things that he's inherited," he tells Racer, "and I think the whole licensing system needs to be reviewed.

"I get that the rules are what the rules are, and the rules shouldn't be broken," he admits. "But I question whether just because they're rules that are in place now, that those are the correct rules.

"Someone of Colton's calibre or Pato's calibre or half the field here (in IndyCar) are Formula 1 capable. So no one's sure yet where the ruling's going to come down.

"But I think if someone like Colton, who has won a lot of IndyCar races, isn't eligible for a superlicence then I think we need to review the system."

The American was keen to point out that if the system had been in place in the past, a number of world champions wouldn't have made it to the grid.

"I think you take a look at the whole thing, but certainly where IndyCar sits, if you can win, what is it, seven races... the rules were written before my time, so I wouldn't want to speculate how they came up with those rules.

"I don't think Max Verstappen would've been eligible for a superlicence, Kimi Raikkonen wouldn't have been eligible... so you can go back and, look you've got a couple guys that are world champions that wouldn't have got their license in today's environment.

"We've had Colton in our car and he did a great job in two days of testing. So the guy can drive a Formula 1 car, no mistake about it."

As it stands, the FIA's stance is simple.

"The FIA will not be pressured by any teams into decisions on matters such as superlicence points," a spokesperson for the sport's governing body told Autosport over the Monza weekend. "The FIA President has implemented robust governance, and we will abide by that."

Also at Monza, Ferrari boss, Mattia Binotto voiced his objection to the move, especially when it was suggested that the FIA could yet use force majeure to get Herta his licence.

"We are investing a lot in our Ferrari Driver Academy and continue to do so. I think force majeure cannot be used for Herta. That will be a completely wrong approach.

"Regulations are in place in order to protect our sports and make sure that we're making the right process and choices for our sport itself. So Herta may participate in the championship, (when) he's got what are the requirements to do so and not differently.

"I think that's very important and we will certainly overview what FIA will do in that respect. And I think each single team will do so because it's for the importance of our sport. We cannot have force majeure or whatever are the situations, which is not a force majeure, certainly in that case."

With other teams also watching the situation very carefully, it has been suggested that Herta contest one of the series that takes place over the winter, Toyota Racing Series, or the Indian and Asian Formula Regional series, with Red Bull, which sees a future for the American with its 'big team', funding the move, seeking to get him into the best team possible.


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1. Posted by kenji, 17/09/2022 2:12

"The the sake of pure entertainment wouldn't it be great if the US Indycar group and the F1 group got together for a series of 5 races during the end of year break. Five cars from five F1 teams and the same from the Indycars and hold five races at COTA and Miami. That would be great fun and showcase both series cars. Plus fill the long gap without any racing at all."

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2. Posted by meatball, 16/09/2022 16:23

"I cannot stand Zac Brown and I don't follow IndyCar very closely but how the IndyCar guys don't earn points near to or directly on-par with the F1 Guys is beyond me. Several times over F1 guys (granted "Older") have shown up in Indy and not done as well as expected. No, it's not the same as F1, but the performance and tight quarters racing is still there. "

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3. Posted by Max Noble, 15/09/2022 3:17

"@ClarkwasGod - quite so! Observed in the breech indeed…! :-)"

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4. Posted by ClarkwasGod, 14/09/2022 18:55

"@Max - it's one thing to change a rule after an anomaly has occurred. It's quite another to change a rule to ALLOW that anomaly to occur.

@no-one in particular
Leaving aside the merits, or otherwise, of Indycar, it remains a National series administered by a National body. The FIA weights the series points almost as highly as F2, and higher than it's own other (WEC/FE) major championships. It is easily the highest rated national championship in their table. Those (presumably mostly this side of the pond) who complain about bias should really look at the facts, and not let their emotions cloud whatever judgement they might have."

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5. Posted by Chester, 14/09/2022 16:59

"Now is not this time? Can of worms? Teams are not forced to take drivers. All other sports I know require a willing buyer/seller. You can't file a legal suit and be hired.

Why does changing rules now an issue that would not be in the future?

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6. Posted by kenji, 14/09/2022 12:29

"Maybe the rules need some tweaking but now is not the time. To compromise the system in place is to open a can of the proverbial worms. By implementing a work around then they will face a host of other would be F1 drivers with similar backgrounds. Precedents are in many cases the established base for legal outcomes. As well as the previous mentioned reasons the teams that have put a young driver academy in place will have wasted both time and energy to say nothing of costs. Hopefully it will be resolved in the near future but it needs careful thought before making changes."

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7. Posted by ancient70!, 14/09/2022 11:58

"The current rules, as stated below, do not keep the “incompetents” out, if they have enough money! The current FIA path to a super license via F3 and F2, whilst being very effective due to it high visibility, as F1 support races, is also the most expensive. So if this is such wonderful path why is Jamie Chadwick not in F3 this year? After twice winning formula W, she should have a few pennies rattling in her piggy bank. But that was not enough to do a F3 season, and she was unable to raise the rest, most probably just a few million! (sarcasm!). Both the Alesi and Schumacher kids bailed due to a lack of money. They certainly not raised in poverty stricken homes. So in my humble opinion the current system sucks, and if common sense prevails,( I know a big ask!) it should be changed."

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8. Posted by Chester, 14/09/2022 11:20

"The FIA Super License does keep rich playboys out of F1. Or does it? Mazepin is a prime example.

Colton Herta is not a pay driver- he is a sought-after driver. Herta is not a case of Mazepin or Maldonado.

Herta can clearly drive so he is not a danger to other drivers. Is he good? That is for Alpha Tauri to decide.
I watched Romain Grosjean's last few IndyCar races, and he looked competitive- more-so than Herta. But Herta does have wins and Grosjean is winless.
In the end, the team spends its money on drivers- and should be free to choose who they want."

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9. Posted by Max Noble, 14/09/2022 3:03

"…let’s not forget Verstappen had his Super license before he was old enough to hold a road license… so they changed that rule… after they let him in…! We need a system, but the system needs to be logical, reasonable, and open to sensible exceptions where a reasoned argument for the exception can be made.

While I’m not fussed if he is allowed in or not, I do believe that a “sensible argument” can be made that this is an exception that should be given the green light. Or… the FIA can hold the line on this, and simply say “Sorry, no exceptions.” Which, as the owner of the rule book, they are quite entitled to do, even if many believe it to be the “wrong” decision…

@Bill Hopgood - all for more racing in Aust. And NZ! :-)"

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10. Posted by Bill Hopgood, 13/09/2022 20:32

"Something doesn't quite add up in regard to the way the points are calculated.

In regards to Indy it is almost as if the FIA doesn't rate the series.

Hopefully, for my own selfish reasons, the current situation remains and drivers keep heading to NZ for the TRS, especially now as travel restrictions are being eased this month (mask mandates for most places ended Monday night, most vaccine mandates later this month) so international drivers should be here for TRS this summer.

A "Tasman F2 and F3" series would also be a great chance for drivers to top up points before "winter" testing."

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11. Posted by Esplen, 13/09/2022 19:04

"Give him the licence! Indycar is a worthy proving ground for drivers, the US a good place to go hunting for much needed sponsorship. "

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12. Posted by JamesD, 13/09/2022 18:25

"An American moans that an American driver cannot join F1 because he doesn't meet the criteria - tough !

The requirements are there for a reason Zak."

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13. Posted by Rock Doc, 13/09/2022 18:19

"OH come on now. Kimi was well qualifies when he started. He had at least 3 single seat races under his belt when he started F1. What more do you want :)"

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14. Posted by givememychoice, 13/09/2022 18:19

"It does need changing. Are you seriously suggesting that somehow a 4th in the Formula regional asia is equivalent to 4th in Indycar? Are you suggesting Mazepin is better/safer than Herta?
I agree, rules are there to be respected, but there has to be an ability to look at rules when a certain situation arises and say, yeah, we got it slightly wrong.
Look at who has finished 4th in Formula Regional Asia since 2018, and Indycar.
FRA Hon Chio Leong, Brendon Leitch, Jamie Chadwick, Patrick Pasma and Gabriele Mini.
Indy Ryan Hunter Reay (indy 500 winner and indycar champ), Scott Dixon (6 time indy champ), Pato O'ward (4 time race winner, ran in F2), Scott Dixon again, Scott Mclaughlin (v8 sports car champ 3 times in a row, 3 time indycar race winner - would have got his superlicence on the back of his 3 championships)

So, on one list is a set of drivers with, I believe, no experience of full F3 or higher, on the other we have drivers who have real pedigree. yet all get 10 points towards their 40.

Colton Herta has finished above the following in the Indy championships over the years:
Grosjean, Sato, Ericsson, Bourdais and Chilton. Sure, none of them were greats, but thats not the point. They were all deemed capable enough to race in F1. He is racing with them at greater speed than F1.

As it stands, Herta may go off and do FRA this winter. In my view, this will add virtually nothing. He will get a factory funded drive, against minnows. And somehow THAT will make it ok for him to race F1.

I genuinely dont care if he gets in or not, but the rules dont make sense at the moment."

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15. Posted by KKK, 13/09/2022 14:47

"No Mr Brown, id doesnt need changing at all. Its there for a purpose. Its bad enough to have drivers are on the F1 grid because daddy is paying for it. Wake up and smell the coffee, You you havnt met the criteria to be in F1, go race elsewhere till you meet the criteria."

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