McLaren, until a few months ago, seemed to promise an F1 destiny for its IndyCar driver Pato O’Ward; or at least kept the Mexican thinking that it was a clear possibility. Then the Piastri affair revealed to O’Ward that instead of drawing from its pool of McLaren drivers, the F1 team would prefer to hire a driver from the Alpine fold and signed Oscar Piastri to replace Daniel Ricciardo.
This is undoubtedly a slap in the face for O’Ward, as it is for Herta and Palou, other drivers from the US McLaren team. O’Ward told ESPN that “It doesn’t feel good to have that illusion.”
“I feel like I’ve matured in the sense that the illusion is a very distant illusion, because even though I have a very, very high level [of driving ability], I’m not going to be able to convince them [at McLaren].”
“There’s a lot of other things and politics, there’s a lot of things that are out of my control, that I’ll never be able to control, and so I’ve got to leave it at that, because there’s no point in embracing that illusion.”
O’Ward reacted with irony and good humour to the news of the Piastri story, posting a message with a popcorn emoji.
— Pato O'Ward (@PatricioOWard) August 2, 2022
“I felt like sorry, and this post was a laugh. I see that and I laugh. Because, I don’t know, this same goal [getting into F1] has been offered to many drivers and sooner or later there is only one ‘dessert’, there are not five.”
“So I only thought of pure laughter, the truth is that there have been so many things that have changed and changed and changed again… I’m getting to the same point, so why stress?”
“The truth is that since the beginning of the year I have put an end to this idea [F1] and stopped thinking about it, because this idea excites you, that’s why everybody wants to leave everything they have for this illusion,
“But I’m a smart man, I’m not stupid and I know how things went, but I don’t have much to say in this situation and it doesn’t help me to have this illusion. I love Indycar, I want to develop this championship, I want it to go to Mexico, I want it to go global, I want to help it continue to develop because it has huge potential.”
“At the moment you can’t present me with anything realistic for a Formula One seat, because you don’t have seats, they’re already gone.”
McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown has promised O’Ward an F1 car drive, starting off as Friday practice during this year’s season.
“Yes, (Zak has talked to him about an F1 deal) but the IndyCar season is going on right now, I’m with this team, it’s not like I can say ‘I’m finishing this and going off to do something else’. I can’t leave anyway, he’s signed me up to his Indycar team, and if he wants to put me in a Formula One car, he can put me in a Formula One car.”
“What would suit me, because that McLaren seat is already secured, the only thing that would suit me is if they gave me those FP1s, that’s the only thing that would suit me, driving [for private testing] doesn’t suit me at all. The truth is I’m not interested in putting energy and effort into just running around.”