O’Ward sets sights “to be a contender in F1” with McLaren

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Photo Credit: McLaren Racing

Since Zak Brown took over as CEO of McLaren in 2016, his vision for the team was to create a global brand where Team McLaren would not only have a Formula 1 team but compete in many other racing disciplines. This has seen McLaren have a full-time IndyCar Team in the form of Arrow McLaren.

Their Mexican driver Pato O’Ward has been Arrow McLaren’s driver of choice. He narrowly missed out on an Indy 500 win in 2022 to former F1 driver Marcus Ericsson. The 23-year-old looked favourite to win it this year until a collision with the Swede in the closing laps saw him end up in the wall.

While winning the Indy 500 and the overall IndyCar championship with Arrow McLaren is O’Ward’s full focus for 2024, he has one eye on a full-time F1 seat after impressing during the Abu Dhabi’s post-season test, completing 103 laps in the McLaren to end up in P2, just over 2 tenths behind Esteban Ocon.

O’Ward has also recently been announced as McLaren F1 Team’s reserve driver for the 2024 season from the Singapore race onwards, once the IndyCar season has finished next September. The Mexican has already completed two FP1 sessions and conducted a number of tests for McLaren over the last two seasons and feels he is now closer than ever to a seat in F1 due to his seat time.

“Absolutely, every time you do more FP1s or more testing, that’s just more time in the car, and that means someone is ultimately believing in you and giving you that opportunity to be ready if those doors do open.”

While driving the MCL60 is a highlight for O’Ward, he stressed that his focus is to complete his mission with the Arrow McLaren Team first – which would be to win the Indy 500. He has been the team’s standout driver since joining the squad in 2020, outpacing new teammate and former F1 driver Alexander Rossi during the last campaign.

“I’m fully focused on what I have to do in IndyCar because I want to give the 500 win to McLaren, I want to be the one that gives it to them because I’ve been with them for four years, starting my fifth next year,” said the 24-year-old.

“And then it would be quite the Cinderella story to tackle the challenge of Formula 1 and be a contender, not just to come here and have fun,” concluded O’Ward.