Since the emergence of Netflix’s F1 documentary series ‘Drive to Survive’, the sport has enjoyed an incredible upward trajectory in the United States.

F1 races in Miami for the first time this weekend with a third race stateside added to the calendar in Las Vegas for 2023.

Haas might be F1’s only American team but the Andretti family has expressed its desire to enter the pinnacle of motorsport and even had talks with Alfa Romeo about a takeover at the end of last year.

The missing piece to the F1’s American puzzle is a driver from the States.

Alexander Rossi was the last American to race in F1 back in 2015, participating in five grands prix for backmarkers Marussia.

Since then, no American has got close to a seat but with F1’s ever-growing presence across the pond, surely it’s only a matter of time.

IndyCar’s Colton Herta is the likeliest candidate given his links to McLaren, while there are a number of highly-rated youngsters in F1’s junior categories.

Is Herta America’s best bet?

The 22-year-old will test McLaren’s race-winning 2021 car later this year as the Woking outfit continues to assess whether he could be a teammate for Lando Norris in the future.

Herta has impressed during his time in IndyCar, becoming the series’ youngest-ever winner in 2019 and taking six career victories so far.

While 2022 hasn’t gone entirely to plan for Herta, he remains America’s most exciting young talent. 

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As it stands, 2024 is the earliest we could see Herta in F1 as Daniel Ricciardo’s three-year deal comes to an end at the conclusion of next season.

Herta will have the opportunity to drive McLaren’s MCL35M car which won the 2021 Italian Grand Prix through F1’s TPC (Testing of previous cars allowance), although the details of this test have yet to be revealed.

Looking ahead to the future, McLaren CEO Zak Brown revealed that the team is in no rush to decide who will partner Norris long term with Pato O’Ward - Herta’s IndyCar rival - another option for the team.

“We have another year together (with Ricciardo),” Brown told the F1 Nation Podcast.

“We do like to think long out, hence doing some testing with Pato [O’Ward], we’re going to do some testing with Colton [Herta] We’ve got Ugo [Ugochukwu] in Formula 4, he put it on pole in his first race.

“So I don’t think you can ever plan too early, but there’s no rush.”

Should Herta continue to impress in IndyCar and his scheduled F1 test outing, a reunion with Norris could be on the cards with the pair teaming up at Carlin back in 2015 during their MSA Formula campaign.

He has been likened to four-time F1 champion Sebastian Vettel, and the incredible talent the German showed during his early Toro Rosso days by F1 legend Mario Andretti.

“The kid is for real,” Andretti told Racer. “I know what I'm talking about, I know when I see something.

“I said the same thing about Max when I first saw him. I said the same thing about Sebastian Vettel when he won Monza with Toro Rosso and things like that - I've been around long enough to see these things and I haven't been wrong yet!”

Herta was a frontrunner to partner Valtteri Bottas if Andretti’s takeover of Alfa Romeo went ahead at the end of last year. 

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Andretti remains very keen on entering F1 in the near future and Herta would be the perfect fit for a new American team.

One potential stumbling block is the superlicence system with drivers wishing to race in F1 required to gain 40 points across three seasons in other championships.

Herta currently has 32 superlicence points (P7 in 2019, P3 in 2020 and fifth in 2021 in IndyCar over the past three seasons.

So if Herta wanted to race in F1 for this season, he’d be eight points short of the 40.

Obviously, Herta will be eyeing F1 in 2023, or most likely 2024, so success in IndyCar would give him the required points needed.

Speaking to Crash.net in an exclusive interview at the Emilia Romagna Grand Prix, Haas team principal Guenther Steiner spoke of his team’s desire to field an American driver. 

“If there would be a good American driver around, we would pick him up,” he said. 

“You need to make an experience here because to set somebody up to fail, it’s also not the right thing to do. That’s my opinion anyway. 

“To be selfish to put an American driver in so we get the interest out of it, I don’t think that is the right thing to do. 

“If you do it, you need to set it up so he is successful. That is the most important thing to do.”

The other options

Logan Sargeant is the outsider in being America’s next hope of an F1 driver.

The 21-year-old currently races in F2 with Carlin and is part of Williams’ F1 driver academy. 

After an impressive 2020 F3 campaign, his career stagnated as he returned to the series with Charouz - a team that often fights further down the field.

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A promotion to F2 with the experienced Carlin outfit should give Sargeant an adequate platform to showcase his talent and show Williams boss Jost Capito he’s worthy of replacing Nicholas Latifi for 2023.

It’s been a solid start so far for Sargeant with four top-seven finishes in the opening six races.

The Florida-born driver will have to step it up in the second half of the season but a solid second season, with significant financial backing behind him, could see him be America’s next F1 driver.

Red Bull-backed junior Jak Crawford is in F3 with the dominant Prema outfit.

At just 16, Crawford is one of the series’ youngest drivers and after an inconsistent maiden year with Hitech, he appears to have found his stride in the first part of the year.

Crawford is in title contention in 2022 and given his age, it makes it even more impressive.

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With Red Bull backing, Crawford’s future is in his own hands with Helmut Marko happy to give drivers an opportunity should they impress in junior categories.

An American driver in a Red Bull-owned team would be a good marketing move, particularly if Crawford enjoys success in F3 and then F2 in the future.

If Herta, Sargeant and Crawford all fail to make the switch to F1, one for the future is Ugo Ugochukwu.

The 14-year-old is part of McLaren’s academy and he’s certainly one to watch in the coming years.

Ugochukwu claimed pole on his single-seater debut in the British Formula 4 opener at Donington Park and currently sits a respectable fourth in the championship.

Highly rated by many, Ugochukwu could be the one to end America’s wait for a standout driver.