Herta recently tested last years Minardi F1 car
We spoke to Bryan Herta yesterday, fresh off his recent test
of last years Minardi F1 car at Donnington, England.
After getting past the initial jitters that comes with
auditioning for the biggest chance in your career, Herta
surprised even himself just how well he did.
It's not too often
that an American driver gets a shot at F1, and I think it
surprised a lot of people when they heard that Bryan got the
call. Not that he isn't worthy, but more the fact
everyone says you must come up through the European farm
system in order to make it to F1. Herta certainly didn't
fit that bill. Everyone was thinking America's next F1
driver would be a youngster backed by the Red Bull program
that make it to the top rung of motorsports through the
European ladder system F3-->F3000-->F1. So imagine
everyone's surprise when Herta's name popped up.
"I got to run
about 30 laps in last year's Minardi, and it was an incredible
experience," says Herta. "Last years car is about 1.5
sec. per lap slower than this years car, but a number of other
drivers drove the old car so I was able to measure how well I
did." The seating position is much more reclined than
other race cars, in part due to the raised nose of a modern F1
car. The car was super responsive compared to anything I
had every driven, including a Champ Car." Of course a
lot of that is due to the 400 pound weight advantage a F1 car
has, but the advanced systems on the state-of-the-art machines
make a difference too.
CART Champ Car driver Bryan Herta
The modern F1 car
also makes a lot more downforce than a modern Champ Car, so
the performance difference is significant. I asked Bryan
how he faired in lap times compared to the other drivers
tested. "I'm not allowed to talk about lap times, but I
am extremely pleased at just how well I did against drivers
such as Justin Wilson." I think my style of driving is
perfectly suited to a F1 car. A F1 car seems to like a
smooth driver who doesn't throw the car around a lot, and I'm
known for being smooth. I think that's why I always ran
so well at Laguna Seca, where you must be smooth to be fast."
"I was surprised
that all the advanced systems did not take away from the
driving," said Herta. "Although they make the car
faster, because everything just works better, the driver still
has to hit his braking points and carry the speed through the
corner. If it was all computer controlled like some
people think, there would not have been such a disparity in
lap times between all four of the drivers who tested that
"The car basically
shifts itself on upshifts, making perfect gear changes at the
precise moment just before redline. On downshifts all I
had to do was hit one button, for say 2nd gear, as I
approached the corner, and when I applied the brakes the car
would downshift to second automatically at the right time.
Pretty amazing stuff, but I was able to shift it manually too.
I liked both ways," said Herta.
"I'm only 32 years
old," says Herta. "That's younger than Michael
Schumacher and he just seems to be getting better. My
reflexes are still sharp and I know I can get the job done."
I want to get teamed with Mark Webber. He's a hot
commodity in F1 these days, and if I'm competitive with him,
people are going to stand up and take notice," says Herta.
"I'm at the perfect age whereby when I'm ready to retire in a
few years, the American youngsters that Red Bull brings along
now, will be ready to step in to fill my shoes, and I can be a
perfect mentor for them along the way."
Are you worried
about the challenge, if it comes? "Heck no, I've got
everything to gain and nothing to lose. If I do well,
people will say wow, where'd he come from, and if I don't,
well I wasn't thought of as F1 material by most pundits
claims he doesn't have to bring money to the table, he admits,
he wishes a company would step up and help a little.
"That certainly would help cement the deal," says Herta.
We have heard all
this talk about Red Bull and their program to get an American
driver to F1. Well here's their chance to step out and
help Bryan Herta, who is on the verge of possibly landing a
ride for the last three races of this year, and maybe a
fulltime ride in 2003 if he did well. Anthony Davidson
is driving in place of Minardi rookie Alex Yoong the next two
races, while the team gives Yoong another chance with a test.
Herta knows if he
gets asked to test again in the next couple of weeks, it's
likely he'll drive for Minardi at Monza, the USGP and in
Japan....that's how well his first test went. If Herta
drives at Indy for the USGP, it's bound to make big headlines
in the USA, as the only American in the race. Talk about
a bonanza for a sponsor.
Now it's just a
matter of Bryan waiting for the phone call of his lifetime
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