McLaren give F1 practice outings to IndyCar stars Alex Palou and Pato O’Ward

Thomas Maher
McLaren Pato O'Ward on track during the 2022 IndyCar season.

McLaren's Pato O'Ward on track during the 2022 IndyCar season.

McLaren have named the two drivers who will take part in their ‘junior’ first practice outings, with two IndyCar stars set for F1 appearances.

Two IndyCar drivers will get the chance to drive for McLaren during the United States Grand Prix and the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

F1 introduced a new rule for the 2022 season, commanding teams to hand over two practice sessions to ‘junior drivers’ – these drivers are classified as those who have competed in two grands prix or fewer.

With only four races left in the 2022 season, McLaren are yet to hand over a session to a junior, but will carry out this requirement between now and the season finale at Yas Marina.

Alex Palou will drive at next weekend’s United States Grand Prix, taking over Daniel Ricciardo’s McLaren MCL36 for first practice. Palou is the 2021 IndyCar champion and has won four races during his time in that series.

Alex Palou with the REV Group Grand Prix P1 trophy. United States, June 2021.

“I’m so excited to be making my F1 weekend debut,” said the Spaniard.

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

“Having driven the 2021 McLaren MCL35M in a few tests now, I can’t wait to put the MCL36 through its paces. I look forward to helping the team in their preparation for the 2022 United States Grand Prix.”

Palou races for Chip Ganassi Racing in IndyCar, although was recently embroiled in a contract battle between CGR and McLaren over his services. Following a civil lawsuit filed by CGR to stake their claim on Palou, an agreement was reached between the three parties – Palou remains with CGR for 2023, although he has carried out some F1 testing with McLaren since.

At the season finale in Abu Dhabi, Mexican racer Pato O’Ward will take over Lando Norris‘ MCL36 for the one-hour session. He competes full-time with McLaren’s IndyCar squad having joined them in 2019. His best championship result was third in the 2021 season.

O’Ward joined Palou for testing of the MCL35M in Barcelona in September, as well as a test at the Red Bull Ring in October.

“I can’t wait to get out on track in Abu Dhabi,” he said.

“I’ve developed as a driver and had a lot of fun testing last year’s car with the team, so it will be a great experience to drive the MCL36. Thank you, McLaren F1, for the opportunity.”

Read More: Theo Pourchaire set for F1 practice debut and becomes Alfa Romeo reserve