‘Great talent’ O’Ward looked ‘very good’ in McLaren sim

Date published: November 1 2021 - Mark Scott

McLaren driver Pato O'Ward undergoing seat fit. October 2021

McLaren Racing CEO, Zak Brown, likes what he sees from Patricio O’Ward as he gears up for a post-season test outing.

The McLaren boss is something of a betting man – as seen with Daniel Ricciardo getting to drive Dale Earnhardt Sr’s 1984 Chevrolet Monte Carlo NASCAR stock car, owned by Brown, as reward for winning the Italian Grand Prix – and also placed a wager with Arrow McLaren SP driver O’Ward earlier in 2021.

The 22-year-old Mexican was given the challenge of winning an IndyCar race in the 2021 campaign and, if he did so, Brown would organise for him to drive the McLaren MCL35M at the post-season test in Abu Dhabi.

O’Ward duly obliged, winning two races in total on his way to finishing third in the overall standings.

Ahead of his post-season run, O’Ward has recently been to the McLaren Technology Centre for a seat fit and has also undergone preparation work on McLaren’s simulator.

And it is fair to say that he has certainly made a good impression on the McLaren Racing boss.

“Pato is a great talent,” Brown told reporters in Austin, Texas.

“He had a great IndyCar season, winning a couple of races and he had a shot at the championship going down to the last race in Long Beach. He is extremely fast.

“He is quite a big personality. His preparation – he’s been in the simulator – has been very good.

“He’ll go out in Abu Dhabi. I think it’s important we don’t put too much pressure on him and we’ll see how he gets on.

“I think he will enjoy it. I don’t think, as he said, that many racing drivers, if you are a formula car driver, Formula 1 is the pinnacle.

“I am sure he is very excited and will do very well.”

Even though Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris are very much locked in as McLaren’s absolute first-choice driver pairing in Formula 1, Brown has not ruled out O’Ward being on the shortlist in the future – although he has reiterated that O’Ward’s main focus should still be on IndyCar.

O’Ward, meanwhile, recently conceded that he would be lying if he said he wasn’t interested in a switch to Formula 1 racing later down the line.

Before joining McLaren, O’Ward had a brief stint with the Red Bull driver programme in early 2019 but was granted an early release later that year by motorsport advisor Helmut Marko.