Pato O’Ward Impresses in Formula One Test

Pato O’Ward Impresses in Formula One Test

by December 15, 2021 0 comments

The Formula One ‘Young Drivers’ test session kicked off today in Abu Dhabi, including one of IndyCar’s finest in Pato O’Ward. This year’s championship runner for Arrow McLaren SP got the opportunity to run a 2021 McLaren F1 car. This all was put together from a bet from the beginning of 2021 from McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown. He promised O’Ward an F1 test if he gave Brown his first IndyCar win this year. The 22-year-old delivered almost immediately, winning race No. 4 on the year at Texas Motor Speedway. O’Ward also won later in the year during the second Detroit Grand Prix. Although he fell short of a championship, O’Ward was excellent this year, and this opportunity was more than deserved.

A Second Chance?

After O’Ward won the 2018 Indy Lights Championship, he got the opportunity to join the Red Bull Junior Team the next year. A program that identifies potential talent for future F1 rides down the road. Alumni of the program include Sebastian Vettel, Daniel Ricciardo, Pierre Gasly, Alex Albon, and current World Champion Max Verstappen. Although an opportunity for a 2020 ride was a possibility, the FIA opted to make his Indy Lights title worth less than expected towards his ‘super license’. Thus, O’Ward opted to go to IndyCar, which had rides available.

These last two seasons he has finished fourth and second in points respectively. Based on the current points allocations, that is already enough to earn a ‘super license’, and potentially jump ship to Formula 1 in 2023. Although this test was not with the 2022 F1 car, this was still a good way to see how O’Ward stacks up among some drivers in the Formula 2 system.

Like a Rocketship

O’Ward was not the only notable in this ‘Young Drivers’  test. Reigning Formula E Champion Nyck De Vries was with Mercedes. Formula 2 Champion Oscar Piastri was in an Alpine ride. In addition to 2022 F1 rookie Guanyu Zhou with his new team in Alfa Romeo. O’Ward in total on Tuesday logged nearly double the laps of the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix just days prior, hovering around the 100 lap marker. He ended up fourth on the day after a soft tire low fuel run closed things out. However, O’Ward at a point earlier in the day was the fastest driver on track. Note the number of Forumla 1 regulars here were running the 2022 18′ tire compound.

O’Ward afterward sounded elated about the whole experience. He had this to say to McLaren’s socials after he got out of the car.

O’Ward to Formula 1?

It doesn’t feel like a stretch to say O’Ward would be interested in a Formula One ride. Currently racing for an IndyCar team directly connected to an F1 squad doesn’t hurt his chances either. But after this year, is there a path for O’Ward to make the jump? Unless McLaren gives Ricciardo the boot a year early, which isn’t out of the question, they are set. Outside of McLaren, there appear to be more than a few teams with spots for 2023. Every single one of them should be in on O’Ward if McLaren stands pat. At the end of the day, however, if he is in a position to win the 2022 IndyCar title, and Ricciardo is struggling by next summer, McLaren has a dilemma on their hands. Some problems are not necessarily bad to have, and this could be one of them.

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Main Image Credit: Embed from Getty Images 

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