McLaren star casts definitive F1 vs IndyCar verdict after Abu Dhabi running

Thomas Maher
Pato O'Ward, McLaren IndyCar star, tests for the team in Abu Dhabi.

Pato O'Ward is one of the drivers best placed to compared an IndyCar and a Formula 1 car.

McLaren’s Pato O’Ward is particularly well-placed to offer a direct comparison between an IndyCar and an F1 car.

24-year-old Mexican driver O’Ward is a full-time IndyCar driver with McLaren’s team in the US series, but has also been recently confirmed as a 2024 reserve driver for the F1 team.

O’Ward carried out some rookie running in Abu Dhabi, taking part in FP1 with the MCL60, before being entrusted with the car for the Young Driver Test on Tuesday for a full-blooded day of action behind the wheel.

O’Ward compares McLaren’s F1 and IndyCar machines

O’Ward, who finished fourth overall in the 2023 IndyCar championship with multiple podium finishes – although victories eluded him for the first time since 2020 – is thus well-versed in the precise requirements the cars in each series command of their drivers.

To that end, the McLaren tester offered his thoughts on the superior qualities the F1 machinery offers over his usual cockpit as he spoke to media, including, after his test day in Abu Dhabi.

“The Formula 1 car is a rocket,” he said, when asked to compare the machines.

“It’s a rocket ship compared to the IndyCar.

“The way it turns, the way it stops, the way it accelerates. The gearbox works very, very well, just everything about the Formula 1 car is just on a different planet, to be honest.

“There’s no other way to describe it, what the car is capable of at high speed. It really is just a rocket on wheels.”

As for whether there is anywhere the IndyCar is a more competent machine, O’Ward was resolute.

“On a road course? Nowhere,” he said.

“The F1 brakes better, turns better, it accelerates faster. The gearbox is a lot more efficient.

“The IndyCar is definitely a lot more physical on the arms but the F1 takes the cake on the neck. But the F1 is a way more capable car in every single way.” recommends

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Pato O’Ward compares 2023 McLaren to 2022 machine

O’Ward also carried out testing duties for McLaren at the end of 2022 and attempted to compare just how much better the MCL60 – which ended the 2023 season as one of the most competitive machines on the grid – is in relation to the 2022 machine.

“The car felt a lot more capable than what it was last year,” he said.

“I come from an IndyCar that is a completely different beast from what it is in Formula 1.

“But the F1 cars, they’re just such capable cars. The toughest thing to do in these F1 cars is… you’ve got the one-shot tyre in the soft compound and you can go over that line very easily.

“But it’s also quite difficult to understand where that limit is, because that limit is just set so high compared to what is normal. You get a feeling of it in a simulator but then, once you start getting all the Gs from all different angles, that’s where you really start feeling what the car is capable of.

“I ultimately had two laps on a medium and then straight to the soft and you’ve got one shot. It’s just something that you need to work up to and definitely not want to get too heated initially and destroy a set of tyres that would ultimately help you just get better.”

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