Mario Andretti is pushing to get IndyCar driver Colton Herta into Formula 1, but believes that he has to be given an opportunity with a top team in order to boost F1's appeal in America.
Herta - who races for Andretti's family team - recently achieved his fourth IndyCar Series victory and the 21-year-old is also the youngest person to ever win a race in the category.
Andretti believes that placing a driver like Herta with a leading team in F1 would be a great thing for the US, but is critical of how the current superlicence regulations in Formula 1 could prevent it from happening.
"We’d need the American driver with a top team, not in the back with no chance," Andretti told Autosport. "If you could get an American driver in F1, producing results, you’d have America going crazy for F1.
"Mercedes sells a lot of cars here, it’s a huge market, imagine what they could do with him? It would juice up the TV ratings too. But it has to happen within a year or so, or they’ll consider him to be too old.
"He’s 21, so it’s a great time, and I realise the lack of testing and licence restrictions. But, I mean, that Russian kid [Nikita Mazepin] gets a superlicence, and the guy who’s at the very top level over here can’t get one? There’s something wrong there!"
Andretti - who won the Formula 1 world championship in 1978 - believes that the recent announcement that Miami will become the second American race on the F1 calendar in 2022 means the timing would be ideal for a driver such as Herta to join Formula 1.
"I think America is probably the only country on the planet that can really properly host two Formula 1 races," Andretti said. "Quite honestly, I think F1’s fanbase in America is somewhat understated, but it needs to be perked up - and the only thing it’s really missing is an American driver.
"I’m pushing like hell for Colton. You’ve got to remember, Colton went to race in England when he was 15 years old, all by himself.
"That’s always been his objective [to get to F1] but he’s very quiet and unassuming, he’s not pushy, but I see a quality there - a Formula 1 quality."