Zak Brown on McLaren’s IndyCar involvement: ‘North America market is top of the list’

Sam Cooper
McLaren Pato O'Ward on track during the 2022 IndyCar season.

McLaren's Pato O'Ward on track during the 2022 IndyCar season.

Zak Brown has been explaining why McLaren are the only F1 team to race in IndyCar and why he believes they will be back to winning races in 2023.

McLaren first ventured into IndyCar in 2020 when they joined forces with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports for a joint-entry into the sport and would end their debut campaign with a P4 finish thanks to the efforts of Pato O’Ward.

With Felix Rosenqvist on board, they enjoyed their most successful season to date in 2021 with O’Ward being a strong candidate for the title before ultimately finishing P3 in the standings,

McLaren then increased their investment in the sport with the car company owning 75% of the team and in 2023, they will drop the SP from the name meaning it will race as Arrow McLaren.

With an expanding interest in Formula 1 in the United States, Brown believes an IndyCar presence is what the fans and the team’s corporate partners want.

“North America is the answer,” Brown said. “When we look at what gets our fans excited, where we sell our beautiful road cars and what our corporate partners want, as far as market penetration, North America comes right to the top of the list.

“When we got started on the journey not long ago, Formula 1 wasn’t very popular in North America. It’s amazing what’s happened in a short period of time.

“A lot thanks to Drive to Survive, the Netflix show, but we felt we wanted to have a larger presence in North America than all the other Formula 1 teams. We’re the only team in IndyCar and it’s really to serve the needs of our fans, our employees and our partners in a very important market.”

McLaren’s operation will again grow in 2023 with Alexander Rossi driving a third full-time car. Brown explained that a change in infrastructure, which he described as “turbocharged”, allows the team to take on another driver.

“Schmidt Peterson Motorsports was a great team but not a very well funded team,” Brown explained. “They always had an awesome partner in Arrow that covered one car but then they had to piece together the second car, they didn’t have a lot of infrastructure.

“So it was a smaller team that we felt had a lot of potential if we could put our weight behind it. We brought in Gavin Ward to run the racing team who has a great pedigree of both Formula 1 with Red Bull and Penske’s organisation in IndyCar so I think he can really lead the way.

“I think we’ve just turbocharged it and now we are a championship calibre racing team with three cars.

“We think he’s [Rossi] a championship calibre driver. He’s won a lot of races, Indy 500 winner. He has that Formula 1 mindset. So we like his experience, his professionalism because we are a young team so we think Felix, Pato and Alex is a great combination of youth and experience and they’re all very fast.”

McLaren and O’Ward won two races in 2022 and Brown predicted they would be back to winning ways in the New Year.

“I think we’re still young in that process but we’ve been challenging for the championship going down to the last one or two races. So we’ve been knocking on the door.

“We have a new race shop coming so, much like we’re doing in Formula 1, we’re investing in the team. We’re still building out the infrastructure in IndyCar but I think we’ll be winning races again next year.”

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