Speculation surrounding Pato O’Ward’s future appears to be over after McLaren CEO Zak Brown confirmed a new contract was in the process of being completed.
The subject of the Mexican’s future had been brought into question recently with rumours that he was not happy to see Colton Herta be given a test of the McLaren F1 car but both O’Ward and Brown have now confirmed the two will stay together for a few more years.
O’Ward has been with the Arrow McLaren team since 2020 and last season he competed for the title before ultimately losing out to Alex Palou.
He recovered from a slow start to 2022 by winning at the Barber Motorsports Park after which he said contract talks were close to being completed and during his Miami press conference, Brown confirmed that was the case.
“Our agreement with Pato is imminent. So we’re going to be together for many more years. He did an awesome job in Barber,” Brown told the media of O’Ward, who was given a test of the McLaren last season,
“He’s now a McLaren driver and it’s ultimately up to Andreas [Seidl] to decide on the Formula 1 side what the opportunities for testing may be.”
Seidl later said that they were very happy with their current driver line-up of Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris and that anyone else testing in the MCL36 was purely to fulfil regulations.
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“As of now, on the F1 side, this year we’re obliged by the regulations to test young drivers two times in free practice,” Seidl said, as reported by Motorsport.com.
“That’s why we have an action process in place for who we actually want to give the chance to, to be in the car for these two practice sessions.
“In order to make this selection, we have the possibility to use the TPC [Testing of Previous Cars] car, to give young guys a chance to show what they can do in a real Formula 1 car and give us some time to prepare them as soon as possible. Hopefully then there’s testing and then we will make up our mind who in the end gets the free practice sessions.
“I just want to be clear again that in terms of driver line-up, we have our driver line-up in place, we have confidence in place. We’re very happy with the driver line-up that we’re having, so [testing other drivers] is more just to fulfil the regulations this year.”
Seidl did however say that either of O’Ward or Herta could become a McLaren F1 driver in the future.
“That’s something we’ll see after the evaluations,” Seidl replied when asked whether the pair are serious options for McLaren. “I would say it’s very important to give them the chance, the best possible approach to show for themselves, to ask what they can do in a Formula 1 car, and then we’ll take it from there.
“Again, at the moment, there’s awesome opportunities on our side, we’re obviously interested to see who could be, in some years, the next potential driver for McLaren.”