"Professional, very attentive and very responsive," is McLaren's verdict on Herta


Colton Herta's two-day test with McLaren has clearly impressed the Woking outfit, describing the American as "very professional, very attentive and very responsive".

On Monday and Tuesday, while the rest of us recovered from the Austrian Grand Prix, McLaren was in action at Portimao where it was carrying out a two-day test.

While the test allowed development driver, Will Stevens some on-track action away from the simulator, and various engineers the opportunity of working at the track as opposed to the MTC, the main focus was Colton Herta, who, along with Stevens, Pato O'Ward, Oliver Turvey and, as of this week, Alex Palou, part of the team's testing programme.

Over the two days, the American completed 162 laps as he maximised his time on the tarmac.

"He was very good at discussing what was going on with the car," says Senior Principal, Car Performance Engineer, Mark Temple. "The first area drivers usually take a little bit of time to learn is how much speed they can carry into the high-speed corners. Turn One at Portimao is quite fast and requires commitment, you really have to throw the car in, and so naturally, it took him quite a while to build up there.

"The other area was braking," he continued. "Working out how late to brake and getting the balance between braking and steering right when going into the corners, so that you can carry as much speed as possible without hurting the exits. Those are areas where he progressed and built on during the test."

"IndyCar is more about upper body strength and not so much about the neck," said Herta, "whereas the F1 car is the opposite, with power steering and high g-forces.

"There is also a lot of data in F1 that we wouldn't get in IndyCar, so there was more stuff to work through and more tools to work with.

"It was really good to dip my feet in with the sim beforehand and adjust to all of the switches and the speed of the car. It enabled me to understand some set-up changes, the balance and what to expect from the grip level and from the car beforehand.

"It was the braking and the acceleration that was the big step," he admitted. "The amount of power in acceleration compared to the IndyCar is quite high, especially in the higher gears. Even when the RPM is low, it still pulls really hard, so it is really fast. It is a different car and requires a different driving style, but it was a lot of fun."

On both days, Herta ran with high and low fuel loads to get a feel for the MCL35M in both qualifying and race conditions. In turn, this gave him an idea of how to manage the tyres and their general performance. During this time, the team played around with set-up and balance to find what the American was most comfortable with.

"I got a lot of different running in," says Herta. "Learning the battery in hybrid cars was new to me, and that took a little bit of getting used to, but once that was out of the way, it felt pretty seamless because of how good the engineers are at getting you up to speed.

"It's not easy to drive, but I feel like I made really big steps in these last two days. It was different from anything I have ever driven before, but it felt pretty seamless. It was amazing, I had a bunch of fun, and everybody was really cool and helpful."

As for those engineers, Temple explains: "We've got engineers doing trackside roles that they wouldn't normally do. For example, we had Amelia (Lewis) trackside with the team.

"Amelia is a Specialist Performance Engineer, but her focus is generally on the simulator. For TPC tests, like this one, she can come to the track and apply what she knows in the simulator to a track environment. It was an excellent experience for her to work with the car physically.

"We have also got mechanics here who wouldn't normally be working with a Formula 1 car, and it is all taking place in an environment where there are more runs, and more time between runs.

"There isn't the same pressure of working through a really intense programme in a short space of time. They could spend more time looking at data and discussing things, thinking about what you do next."

And as for Will Stevens...

"It’s been an amazing day with lots of positives and I loved every minute of it," said the former Caterham and Marussia driver. "It was great to get out there and get a fresh understanding of how the car runs, and properly experience what the drivers feel to help with my usual role in the sim. Big thank you to McLaren for giving me the opportunity to get in one of these cars again!"

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Published: 16/07/2022
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