Alex Palou, McLaren, Circuit de Catalunya, 2022

McLaren confirms F1 practice runs for IndyCar’s Palou and O’Ward

2022 F1 season

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Alex Palou and Pato O’Ward will make their Formula 1 practice session debuts for McLaren over the final four races of the season.

The team confirmed 2021 IndyCar champion Palou will drive Daniel Ricciardo’s car during the first practice session at the Circuit of the Americas one week from today.

O’Ward will drive for the team at Yas Marina, taking over Lando Norris’s car for the first practice session ahead of the season finale. The four-times IndyCar race winner drove for McLaren in the young drivers’ test at the track last year.

Palou has also previously tested for McLaren as part of the team’s programme of runs using its 2021 MCL35M chassis. The team recently settled a dispute with Ganassi over Palou’s services which will see him stay at the IndyCar team next year, having previously announced a move to the McLaren SP squad O’Ward races for.

Palou said “it’s great to be driving in the United States in front of fans that may have seen me race in IndyCar.

Pato O'Ward, McLaren, Yas Marina, 2021
O’Ward will drive at Yas Marina again
“Having driven the 2021 McLaren MCL35M in a few tests now, I can’t wait to put the MCL36 through its paces.”

McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl said the two drivers impressed them when they tested at the Circuit de Catalunya and Red Bull Ring earlier this year.

“It’s a great chance for them to showcase their skills on Formula 1’s global stage, where the focus will be to help the team prepare for the race weekend and not on ultimate lap times.”

With only four races left for teams to meet the quota of running at least two drivers with little F1 experience in practice sessions, many have seized upon the US and Abu Dhabi rounds as the best opportunity to complete the mandatory runs. McLaren is one of four teams which has confirmed it will run a junior driver in practice next week.

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F1 teams’ junior driver practice schedules

Team Event Driver Event Driver
Mercedes French Grand Prix Nyck de Vries TBC TBC
Red Bull Spanish Grand Prix Juri Vips TBC TBC
Ferrari United States Grand Prix Robert Shwartzman TBC Robert Shwartzman
McLaren United States Grand Prix Alex Palou Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Pato O’Ward
Alpine TBC TBC TBC TBC
AlphaTauri Belgian Grand Prix Liam Lawson TBC Liam Lawson
Aston Martin Italian Grand Prix Nyck de Vries Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Felipe Drugovich
Williams Spanish Grand Prix Nyck de Vries United States Grand Prix Logan Sargeant
Alfa Romeo Bahrain Grand Prix Zhou Guanyu United States Grand Prix Theo Pourchaire
Haas Mexican Grand Prix Pietro Fittipaldi Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Pietro Fittipaldi

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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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14 comments on “McLaren confirms F1 practice runs for IndyCar’s Palou and O’Ward”

  1. Palou at COTA is unsurprising, but I assumed Pato would drive in Mexico FP1 rather than Yas Marina.

    1. I presumed that he would be at the track he already knows from last year (Yas Marina), rather than have to learn a new circuit.
      Although would have been nice to be in front of his home fans in Mexico.

      1. @eurobrun Good point.

  2. I think Palou would make a very good F1 driver. He’s so good he makes driving an IndyCar look easy. Very smooth, always in control of his emotions. I’m willing to bet he’ll make some strong impressions behind the wheel of a MCL36.

  3. So that’s already four FP1 drivers at the Texas event, could be five if Alpine slots one in there too.

    Not sure why that’s such a popular spot, but apparently F1 teams have their reasons. Perhaps they’re just running out of time to get their mandated runs in.

    1. I think they wanted to their drivers to get as much time as possible for the new cars and everyone wanted to let the juniors drive at the end of the season

  4. Are there Super License points requirements for these practice session debut drives in F1?

    1. The Sporting Regulations (#32.5) say that ‘On one occasion in each car entered for the Championship during each Championship, each Competitor must use a driver who has not participated in more than two Championship races in their career. Each Competitor must advise the FIA in writing seven days prior to the start of the relevant Event with the details of the driver that they will use.’

      These drivers do not require an F1 super license.

      1. @MichaelN he means is a driver given superlicence points for taking part in a session.

  5. One would have thought their new signing that yet is to drive in a GP event would have priority????
    …or is he still an Alpine driver, even though the CRB concluded he is now not contracted?

    1. @ancient1
      He’s still an Alpine driver, and the CRB concluded he was not contracted to them for 2023, not that he wasn’t contracted to them at all. As such, McLaren would need Alpine’s agreement, and they still seem to be sulking about the whole thing.

  6. O’Ward will drive for the team at Yas Marina, taking over Lando Norris’s car for the first practice session ahead of the season finale.

    I kind of assumed that anyone would take over Ricciardo’s car, given he is leaving. Surprised, but I’m sure McLaren must have their reasons.

    1. @kartguy07 I think that each race driver is obliged to give up one Friday P1 apiece, not the same driver each time.

      1. @chimaera2003
        Thanks, you are indeed correct, it is mandatory.

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