Patricio O’Ward, nicknamed ‘Pato’ O’Ward, was once groomed for Formula 1 by Helmut Marko, but things turned out differently. O’Ward has been driving for McLaren in the IndyCar series for four years now, and has been able to drive a Formula 1 car several times in the past two years, and that leaves him wanting more.
O’Ward became champion in 2018 in the Indy Lights, the last gateway to the IndyCar Series, after which he joined the Red Bull talent team in May 2019. However, the FIA decided to award fewer super license points than expected for the Indy Lights title, and so the Mexican could not yet drive in Formula 1 in 2020. Marko decided to give O’Ward his chance when McLaren wanted to sign him to the IndyCar team.
O’Ward still drives there today, and he is proud to drive for McLaren, which is now active in many racing series. ‘It is awesome. The jewel in the crown of it all is Formula 1, and then we also have the IndyCar Series, Formula E and ExtremeE,” O’Ward said in an interview with PlanetF1. ‘So we have all these teams, and can easily compete in other classes. It sounds a bit corny, but we are one team with one dream.’
Brown offered first Formula 1 meters to O’Ward
O’Ward won four races in the IndyCar Series, including two in 2021, the season O’Ward finished third. McLaren team boss Zak Brown had promised the Mexican a Formula 1 test if he won a race that year, and O’Ward ensured that the American could fulfill his promise. O’Ward first competed in an old McLaren owned by Mika Häkkinen, only to be able to take a seat in the 2021 McLaren during the rookie test in Abu Dhabi after the season-closer.
Last month, the IndyCar driver was allowed to test in the same McLaren again in Barcelona. ‘I now know what it feels like to drive a Formula 1 car, that’s something I’ve been looking forward to for years. That feeling is what you look for with any racing car. It has taken a little longer than expected to drive a Formula 1 car. You just feel at one with a car like that, not only when you push the limits, but also with the procedures and everything. So I have definitely taken a big step in the right direction with the Formula 1 car, so I was very happy with that.’
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The driver then also discusses the difference between a Formula 1 car and an IndyCar car. O’Ward explains that an IndyCar car has to be driven aggressively, while in Formula 1 you have to be much more subtle. ‘They are two completely different cars. The Formula 1 car is very different. That car is capable of so much, but you have to be very precise with it. That was something that I still had to learn and perfect, because I was just not used to this.’
O’Ward will also be in action this year
Just like in 2022, O’Ward will be allowed to drive the first free practice in Abu Dhabi for McLaren later this month. Although Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri don’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon, O’Ward isn’t giving up on his ultimate dream just yet. “I grew up with Formula 1 as my big dream, and it will remain my dream until the day I die. Something like that doesn’t just disappear. I will continue to improve myself in any way I can.”
“Of course I would love to drive Formula 1, because I know I can do the same there as in the IndyCar Series,” said O’Ward, who finished the season fourth. “I know I’m capable of it, and I’ve always had confidence in myself. You just have to be given the opportunity to make progress, because you can’t just get in and look like a superhero.’