Patricio O’Ward thoroughly enjoyed his first experience of driving a Formula 1 car, enthusing about the day he had in Abu Dhabi.
The Arrow McLaren SP IndyCar driver won a bet with team boss Zak Brown and earned the opportunity to take part in the post-season young driver test for the McLaren Formula 1 outfit, after winning an IndyCar race for the first time.
He made the most of the opportunity presented to him, driving 92 laps around the Yas Marina circuit in the team’s current car – and the 22-year-old Mexican struggled to articulate just how much of a change it was for him compared to his regular car.
The day @PatricioOWard dreamt of! 🥰🧡
Glad you loved it, Pato. You did great. pic.twitter.com/1YwvNDgB0e
— McLaren (@McLarenF1) December 14, 2021
“I’m at a loss for words about today,” O’Ward said afterwards, per Motorsport.com. “The experience and the opportunity is rare, once in a lifetime.
“But man, wow! Like, wow, these cars are ridiculous. I was expecting crazy and insane, and this is crazy and insane times 10.
“I thought the IndyCar was fast, and my eyes, I mean, it was just crazy. I don’t know what else to say.
“Since the first lap, as soon as I went out, I felt the power and the grip, the braking. The thing does whatever you want it to. What a great experience, and just what a car!”
The physical demands of a McLaren Formula 1 car are different to what he experiences in IndyCar, with the series of fast, sweeping corners in Abu Dhabi putting extra pressure on his neck – which he admitted was feeling sore towards the end of the day.
That did not detract from how much he enjoyed his day though, and said he deliberately avoided go absolutely all-out behind the wheel, as he did not want to suffer the consequences of a crash.
“Man, my neck is destroyed,” O’Ward quipped, although he described the sensation of driving the car as “addictive” and the “best experience I’ve ever had in a race car in my life”.
“I don’t think anything has come close to it,” he added.
“In terms of driving and feeling what it’s capable of, and feeling its limits, nothing comes close to this. The feeling an IndyCar gives you is crazy. But you get into this, and just the way it’s able to do everything so fast and everything is so compressed, it’s like a video game. It’s unreal.
“But I have to say, to extract the last bit of it for sure, it takes a bit more commitment to the car. I for sure didn’t get to the limit of it in certain areas. I did in others, but in other areas.
“It’s normal, it’ll take time to know what it’s capable of, to really get it there and not go over the limit. I didn’t want to just go, ‘I’ve got big balls, I’m going to send it!’ and end up in the wall.”
He went fourth fastest in the test on Tuesday, with Mercedes reserve and Formula E World Champion Nyck de Vries topping the timesheets.