O’Ward to drive for McLaren in Abu Dhabi practice and post-season test

Formula 1

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McLaren team principal Andrea Stella has confirmed Pato O’Ward will drive for the team again during practice for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

The IndyCar driver has been signed to McLaren since 2020 and also drove in first practice at last year’s Abu Dhabi GP.

O’Ward finished fourth in the IndyCar championship which concluded last weekend. Stella said the team believe he has done enough to qualify for an F1 superlicence.

“We are checking with the FIA, we think he’s eligible now for a super licence,” said Stella. “So he’s qualified to drive a Formula 1 car and be in a position to be one of the [McLaren] reserve drivers.”

O’Ward’s run will fulfil McLaren’s obligation to run rookie drivers in each of its cars over the course of the year. It completed the first of these when Oscar Piastri made his debut for the team in Bahrain.

McLaren also confirmed O’Ward will return for them at the post-season Young Driver Test at the Yas Marina circuit in November.

The team previously intended to also give further testing opportunities to Alex Palou. However he has severed his ties to the team and the two parties are going to court over their contractual dispute.

O’Ward will therefore participate in both events, Stella confirmed. “In terms of the two main events that would have involved either Alex or Pato, they are to do with one more session of free practice one where we have to have so-called young drivers, who are drivers that haven’t participated in more than two races,” he said.

“Then we have the post-Abu Dhabi test. Initially, these kind of events would have been split between the two but obviously now in this situation, we will have Pato at the wheel in free practice one in Abu Dhabi.

“I can confirm that he will also be driving the Tuesday after the race in Abu Dhabi. Therefore, we look forward to having Pato in P1 and in the test.”

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Ed Hardy
In 2019, Ed started working on Formula 1 writing articles during race weekends. Alongside that, he also built up experience in football working on...
Claire Cottingham
Claire has worked in motorsport for much of her career, covering a broad mix of championships including Formula One, Formula E, the BTCC, British...

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9 comments on “O’Ward to drive for McLaren in Abu Dhabi practice and post-season test”

  1. Being eligible for a super license definitely means he can serve as a reserve driver, although a super license isn’t a requreirement for merely driving an F1 car.

  2. I like O’ward a lot. He’s had a weird season. Constantly challenging for wins but narrowly missing out. He’s be a great personality in the F1 paddock but his only chance of getting on the grid would be to win IndyCar and a seat open up at McLaren during the same period.

  3. Is there a reason that this doesn’t happen the other way round? We don’t see F1 drivers testing Indy cars during the off season. Especially with a team like McLaren who are in both series.

    1. @dot_com IndyCar has much stricter regulations on testing, particularly under the new regulations they introduced in 2022. As of 2022, IndyCar limits teams to a maximum of two days of private testing, and it appears that only one of those may be outside of the normal season.

    2. I’d like to see that happen.

  4. Ok that makes sense. Thanks

    1. Was meant to be a reply to @anon

  5. It seems that Alex Palou wants to relish his IndyCar success and believes that he won’t find greater success elsewhere. Or, he isn’t prepared to work for it. Why would he turn down such a golden opportunity to test F1 cars for McLaren, and also invite legal trouble?

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