O’Ward: Weighing up risk versus reward “a constant battle” after winless 2023 IndyCar campaign

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Arrow McLaren driver Pato O’Ward says “we didn’t have that elephant in the room of we didn’t win” after a winless campaign in 2023.

The Mexican was on the verge of victory at St. Petersburg before a plenum fire cost him the win. He was also blisteringly fast at Texas Motor Speedway but ended up in second place.

O’Ward remained candid when asked about his lessons from last season: “Takeaways from last year, winning a race will never be a given, and I think that’s the biggest takeaway.

“You don’t have to win to have a good year. Obviously it helps, but I think those wins come by you and the team doing your jobs as good as possible, not really focusing on the end result.”

Despite failing to win a race, the Mexican scored seven podiums, the most of his IndyCar career in a single season.

Pato O'Ward driving his Arrow McLaren IndyCar at Portland

Photo credits: Arrow McLaren

The championship is highly competitive, and consistency is a vital trait in building a title challenge, as reigning champion Alex Palou demonstrated, finishing no lower than eight place in any IndyCar race of the 2023 season.

The 24-year-old Arrow McLaren driver is heading into his fifth full IndyCar season, and is gaining more experience all the time, even being given the role of reserve driver for McLaren’s Formula 1 team.

The Mexican spoke about the process of choosing which battles to fight on the track in the pursuit of maximising his points tally. It comes after the heartbreak of losing out on a potential Indy 500 win last year following a controversial late collision with Marcus Ericsson.

“The more years that I add on to my INDYCAR resume, you just realise how costly a risk can be, especially early on in the season, which is a constant battle that you will have your whole career.

“It’s always about the points at the end of the day. Whoever has the most points is going to win.

“But it’s also about taking advantage of opportunities. It’s a constant battle, I believe, with yourself, of making those split-second decisions of — you never know quite how it’s going to work out until it works out,” he concluded, highlighting the uncertainty that pervades every moment out on track.

Deciding whether to go for an overtake or not can often change a race, as O’Ward found out to his detriment at last year’s Indy 500, retiring after a clash with Marcus Ericsson.

He also incurred the wrath of Scott Dixon after the pair had contact at Long Beach.

“Sometimes you end up like a hero. But sometimes you might end up and you’re like, ‘what would have happened if I would have waited, or what would have happened if this’.”

“I think we had a lot of little wins during the year, which shouldn’t be overlooked. Ultimately, what was missing was that No. 1 in at least one race,” the winner of the 2022 edition of the 24H of Daytona summed up.

Arrow McLaren will run an altered three-car lineup this season, with Felix Rosenqvist departing the outfit and being replaced by former Dale Coyne and HMD young prospect, 22-year-old David Malukas.

O’Ward is eagerly anticipating working with the American: “We’re going to miss Felix. Felix is a great character. But I’ve known David for quite some time. We raced go-karts together. He’s a great addition to the team.”

“He’s young, he’s fast, and he’s got a family that loves racing. I think he will really enjoy the atmosphere that McLaren Racing as a whole has to offer,” he added, welcoming the two times podium sitter.