Patricio O'Ward, McLaren SP, IndyCar, Texas Motor Speedway, 2021

McLaren SP’s O’Ward clinches first IndyCar win – and F1 test chance


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McLaren SP driver Patricio O’Ward has clinched his first IndyCar victory – and with it the chance to test their Formula 1 car later this year.

McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown told O’Ward last month he will drive for their F1 team in the end-of-season rookies’ test at Yas Marina if he won an IndyCar race for them this year.

O’Ward passed two-times IndyCar champion Josef Newgarden with 24 laps to go to win the second of two races this weekend at Texas Motor Speedway.

The start of the race was marred by a huge crash involving six cars, triggered by Pietro Fittipaldi. Sebastien Bourdais – who was also taken out of yesterday’s race – Alexander Rossi, Ed Jones, Conor Daly and Dalton Kellett were all claimed by the carnage, fortunately without serious injury.

Start crash, Texas Motor Speedway, IndyCar, 2021
Report: Fittipaldi apologises for triggering six-car pile-up before start of race
After the restart the race initially ran along similar lines to yesterday. Scott Dixon took control while few drivers behind him dared to risk a pass, as the outer line on the steeply banked turns proved too slippery for IndyCars to touch.

The complexion of the race changed halfway through when a second caution period was triggered by Jack Harvey’s retirement. The Meyer Shank racer, who was running another strong race inside the top five, was sidelined with a suspected right-rear bearing failure, which looked similar to that which claimed Colton Herta yesterday.

The action resumed on lap 128 of the extended second race, with drivers able to complete the remaining 120 laps if they nursed their fuel loads. This led to a stint of cautious fuel management in which Graham Rahal briefly slipped past Dixon to lead, before the positions were reversed again.

O’Ward was also in the mix. After a daring earlier attempt to pass Power, resulting in a breathtaking save when he touched the apron at the foot of the steep banking, he got the job done at the restart. He also temporarily got ahead of Rahal, before dropping back to third.

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Crucially, O’Ward eked his fuel out a lap longer than the leaders. Dixon and Rahal came in together on lap 187 and left even closer together, Rahal passing uncomfortably near to Dixon’s crew as he rejoined. Back on track, the RLL driver swiftly passed yesterday’s winner, but O’Ward’s extra lap of running light allowed him to jump the pair of them.

Patricio O'Ward, McLaren SP, IndyCar, Texas Motor Speedway, 2021
O’Ward will test for McLaren’s F1 team in December
He was then handed a slice of luck by none other than his team mate. Felix Rosenqvist’s car shed its right-rear wheel, causing a third and final caution period. Fuel mileage was no longer a concern for O’Ward, but the interruption allowed Takuma Sato into the lead, followed by Josef Newgarden.

Newgarden and O’Ward passed Sato immediately after the restart. The McLaren SP driver then tracked his rival for 23 laps, before moving in for the kill. The rookie proved highly effective against the twice-champion, sizing him up on the outside before effortlessly diving down the inside.

He reeled off the final 24 laps untroubled by his pursuers, and reached the line 1.2 seconds clear to score his first IndyCar victory at his 26th attempt.

Second place for Newgarden was a useful result in the championship, though he remains yet to win a race this year. Points leader Dixon came in fourth behind Rahal.

Herta took fifth after diving past Simon Pagenaud in a move which had repercussions for Power – he understeered wide onto the slippery banking, where an inevitable brush with the wall awaited. He finished 13th.

Palou slipped from second to seventh at the flag. Yesterday’s runner-up Scott McLaughlin came in eighth, with Rinus VeeKay less than a tenth of a second behind. Ryan Hunter-Reay completed the top 10 – the first time this year the 2012 champion has finished that high.

A confirmation of O’Ward’s reward came quickly from McLaren’s top brass. “A deal’s a deal” Brown declared on social media moments after the chequered flag fell. “What a win! See you in Abu Dhabi later this year!”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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9 comments on “McLaren SP’s O’Ward clinches first IndyCar win – and F1 test chance”

  1. He’s knocked on the door a few times. Great to see him take it.

    Alpine fought for a WEC win and Mclaren take an Indy win this weekend: I’m looking forward to seeing more of these F1 budget-cap assisted side-ventures!

    1. To add, United Autosports came 1st LMP2 in WEC as well. UA is linked with McLaren (Zak Brown owns UA) and might see a similar partnership as Arrow McLaren SP for a return to WEC with the LMDh cars. UA is a force to reckon with at the moment, let alone in the future with McLaren backing and with LMDh sort of being a spec series, I can see them going pretty well.

  2. Unfortunate crash in the beginning. Really screwed Rossi and Andretti’s chances for the title. They need to bounce back at Indy or it’s finished for them. Dixon is too consistent for Rossi to challenge with incidents like this and St Petersburg

    It was a fun race, but the PJ1 compound on the corners took away much of the excitement because it was difficult to pass. I was surprised how much speed Power lost when he dipped into the darker tarmac.

    Looking forward to Indy this year!

    1. Rossi is not consistent enough over a full season to win a championship anyway. Dixon is driving great at 40 years old in his 19th season in Indycar. I wanted him in F1 when he was young, but he has had a superb motorsport career nonetheless.

  3. Impressed by rookie Scott McLaughlin in his first attempt at an Oval in the first race and respectable in the second!

    1. Yeh, we have watched his incredible talent in Australia’s supercar series (v8 powered sedans), he made the step up to Indycar because his supercars team is run by Penske, so they gave him the opportunity and he is taking it. very professional driver that could do well in F1 if given a chance, but sadly F1 only lets rookies in from f3/f2 at young age these days, and doesnt take into consideration ANY other racing series or great drivers. I was super excited that Mclaren yesterday anounced they will give an Indycar up and coming star a test in an F1 young drivers test later this year as a result for winning a race, but i think they should give him the test anyway as it is takes immense talent to win in Indycar. Well done to Mclaren and Penske though for seeking out talent from all corners of the motorsport sphere and not just feeder series.

      1. Quick question: Is Florentino Pérez popular or unpopular?

  4. Dutchguy (@justarandomdutchguy)
    3rd May 2021, 14:25

    Well deserved. he’s been really good for quite a while now

  5. OK, the second race was quite good after the messy start. Bourdais’ team stayed up all night fixing his car from the first race only to be taken out at the green flag. Sorry, Pietro Fittipaldi isn’t good enough to compete at this level He’s seems like his previous stint in IndyCar to be way over his head. Unfortunately we have been robbed of good racing at Texas because of the black crap they put on the track for NASCAR. Quite a good race considering there was only one lane to drive in. Quite a hard way to pass anyone at 220mph.

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