Pato O’Ward respects that Daniel Ricciardo is reluctant to race on ovals, but believes IndyCar is a series that he would “love”.
Ricciardo lost his McLaren drive at the end of the 2022 campaign having struggled to live up to the heights expected from him, and he has not taken up another position on the grid for 2023.
We can still expect to see him around though after it was confirmed that he will return to Red Bull as their third driver.
Ricciardo has consistently put it on record that Formula 1 remains his only focus, rather than considering competing in a different series, that including IndyCar, to which Ricciardo scoffed “f*** that, ovals scare me”.
But O’Ward, who competes in IndyCar for Arrow McLaren SP, and made his F1 debut with McLaren during FP1 in Abu Dhabi, could see Ricciardo learning to embrace IndyCar if he made the move.
“I did see online that he didn’t want to do ovals, which I respect,” said O’Ward, as per Motorsport.com. “But I think Daniel would love it. I really think he would fit right in. And does he want to do it? Does he not want to do it? I don’t know.
“The car is very different. I can tell you that. The way F1 is versus how IndyCar is, it’s very different. But I think he would love it. He loves America. So I think Daniel would fit right in. And I know the super speedways are very quick. We all understand they are more dangerous, right?
“But I think there’s a lot of kind of like trash talk about of super speedways and ovals in general. And it shouldn’t be that way. Because maybe on TV it’s hard to explain but it is a very cool, very different type of racing.
“And once you do them a little bit more and you kind of start getting comfortable with it, you realise how special they are and what they’re all about.
“And I feel like before everybody kind of goes, I don’t want to try ovals, and kind of just close your mind, try it. Try it because it’s a very, very cool experience. It’s quick, it’s very fast. But I don’t think he’d have an issue with it.”
There was another Formula 1 driver who found himself dropping off the grid and against the idea of racing on ovals, that being Romain Grosjean, who made the switch to IndyCar after departing Haas.
But Grosjean would soon have a change of heart, the 2021 Bommarito Automotive Group 500 serving as his first oval race, before he committed to the full schedule for 2022.
“I think it’s just a different learning,” O’Ward continued. “It’s a different craft that you have to master, which ultimately makes the championship even harder to win because you need to craft three different disciplines, super speedways and short ovals and a super speedway is completely different to a short oval.
“And I think Romain can attest that. He started off not really wanting to do them, and then he kind of tried one, and he’s like this is cool. And I think you learn how it is to drive in it and how to play around with the towing and everything and you learn to love it.
“And I think super speedways and ovals are a very beautiful thing but they are very penalising when you’re going at those speeds, right, but as it is in an F1 car, I mean if you have an accident at over 200mph, I don’t think the consequences will be much less, you’re still travelling at such high speeds.”
Maybe IndyCar will interest Daniel Ricciardo for 2024?
Ricciardo has his sights set on returning to the Formula 1 grid in 2024, this Red Bull reunion designed to give him “some time to recharge and refocus”, though he has made it clear before that he wants to come back with a team which will allow him to compete at the front.
The only logical opening right now would potentially be with Red Bull, but with Sergio Perez under contract until the end of 2024 and now seemingly back on good terms with Max Verstappen, it is very possible that this door will not open for Ricciardo.
Perhaps then IndyCar would be a solid option for Ricciardo, the series increasingly gaining stock with the Formula 1 teams, shown in O’Ward’s McLaren opportunity and Colton Herta’s almost moves to Alfa Romeo and AlphaTauri.
Ricciardo has shown his love for America, that put on full display with his entrance into the COTA paddock earlier in the year, so he would have no problem settling in and being accepted by the people. Therefore, he may well come to see that O’Ward is talking a lot of sense.