American IndyCar driver could take shock final F1 seat for 2022 with Alfa Romeo

Rising IndyCar star Colton Herta could take the final spot on the Formula 1 grid for 2022 if a proposed takeover of the Alfa Romeo team comes off.

American motorsport operation Andretti Autosport, led by former F1 driver Michael Andretti, is believed to be in the closing stages of talks to buy-out the Swiss outfit. No deal has been agreed yet, but final talks are scheduled for the US Grand Prix in Texas in two weeks’ time.

21-year-old Herta currently drives for the Andretti team in IndyCar, the top level of open-wheel motorsport in the United States, and is the youngest ever driver to win a race in the series. The California-native qualified a very impressive second for this year’s Indy 500, eventually finishing the world famous race in 16th.

While all other Formula 1 teams have confirmed their driver line-ups for next season, the final seat at Alfa Romeo remains available, with the incoming Valtteri Bottas set to serve as team leader in place of retiring compatriot Kimi Raikkonen. Antonio Giovinazzi is not expected to be retained, but the list of candidates for the second seat is long.

F2 championship leader Oscar Piastri has a strong claim for an F1 seat, but his links with the Alpine make a switch to Alfa unlikely according to team principal Fred Vasseur, who added that “it’s not the end of the world” if the Australian has to wait another year to make the step up.

Other F2 drivers including Guanyu Zhou and Théo Pourchaire are being considered, but their inexperience may count against them. Formula E champion Nyck de Vries is another potential name on Vasseur’s list, as is experienced F1 driver Nico Hulkenberg, who has been without a permanent drive since leaving Renault at the end of 2019.

Herta, though, is a driver whose path to Formula 1 has been much discussed ever since his impressive first outings in IndyCar a couple of years back. The sport is now owned by Liberty Media, an American investment fund, and has seen popularity in the United States rise in recent years thanks to the new track for the US Grand Prix in Texas, and the success of Netflix’s Drive to Survive behind-the-scenes documentary series.

A second American race will be added to the calendar next season, a street circuit in Miami which runs around the outside of the Miami Dolphins’ NFL stadium.

When asked about the possible takeover ahead of the Turkish Grand Prix this weekend, Vasseur said: “I can say nothing because honestly it’s not in my parameter.”

“I’m the CEO and team principal and these kind of discussions is not with me, it would be with the shareholders and that we have so many rumours and so on that you have to ask the question to the shareholders of the company.”

Herta does not currently possess enough super license points to qualify as an F1 driver, but has earned enough to potentially be given special dispensation to compete by the FIA.

Last year Herta spoke openly about his desire to join Formula 1, and even named Alfa Romeo as a potential destination. He said: “I’d love to give Formula 1 a crack.

“I think it would have to mean either being with a top-three team or incentives of, if I do good enough, getting to a top-three team.

“So being at Alfa Romeo or something like that for a year or two and if I do good enough, maybe I can move up to a Ferrari or a Red Bull.

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