IndyCar drivers Alex Palou and Patricio O’Ward will drive for McLaren Racing F1 at the United States and Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, respectively, complying with the two FP1-mandated sessions under the rookie status.
On Friday, McLaren Racing F1 announced that 2021 NTT INDYCAR Series champion, Alex Palou, will drive for the team in the FP1 session at the United States Grand Prix, staged next weekend, taking over Daniel Ricciardo’s car.
The 25-year-old appearance in Austin at the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) will mark Palou’s career debut in a Formula One Grand Prix weekend.
In that regard, the Spanish driver commented: “I’m so excited to be making my F1 weekend debut. It’s great to be driving in the United States in front of fans that may have seen me race in INDYCAR.”
“Having driven the 2021 McLaren MCL35M in a few tests now, I can’t wait to put the MCL36 through its paces. I look forward to helping the team in their preparation for the 2022 United States Grand Prix.”
Nearly a month later, it will be the turn for Patricio O’Ward to be at the wheel of Lando Norris MCL36 during the final FP1 session of the season in Abu Dhabi.
“I can’t wait to get out on track in Abu Dhabi. I’ve developed as a driver and had a lot of fun testing last year’s car with the team, so it will be a great experience to drive the MCL36,” he said.
According to the 2022 Sporting Regulations, all Formula One teams must run rookie drivers - with no more than two race starts in the series, during FP1 on at least two occasions throughout the year.
Palou and O’Ward Journeys With McLaren
As part of McLaren Testing of Previous Cars program, both drivers have been at the wheel of the MCL35M this season.
Last September, they drove the car at Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya in Spain, with Palou making his testing debut with the Woking-based squad.
Early in October, they met again at the Rell Bull Ring circuit in Austria to continue the development program.
However, O’Ward’s first taste of Formula One machinery came in December of last year when he took part in the Young Driver Test at Yas Marina Circuit, completing 92 laps.
The opportunity was handed by Zak Brown, McLaren Racing CEO, as a reward for the Arrow McLaren SP driver, who claimed his maiden IndyCar victory at the Texas Motor Speedway, finishing the championship in third place.
Following the triumph, the young star achieved another feat, becoming the first Mexican driver since Adrian Fernandez (2004) to win a race in the American series.
Team Principal Andreas Seidl spoke about the drivers’ upcoming outings with the F1 team, asserting: “We’re pleased to give Alex and Pato the opportunity to take part in free practice sessions with McLaren.
“With Alex’s great successes in INDYCAR, it will be useful for the team to get his feedback on the car and for us to continue to evaluate him as a driver.”
Adding: “Alex and Pato impressed with their recent tests in Barcelona and Austria, and we’re excited to offer them the experience in the MCL36.
“It’s a great chance for them to showcase their skills on Formula 1’s global stage, where the focus will be to help the team prepare for the race weekend and not on ultimate lap times.”
Palou’s Contract Saga
Last September, following an agreement between the teams and the driver, the saga involving the Spanish driver’s contract concluded, and he will remain with Chip Ganassi Racing for the upcoming season.
CGR’s official statement outlines: “Alex Palou will remain in the No. 10 car with Chip Ganassi Racing for the 2023 INDYCAR season. The agreement affords him the opportunity to test cars in separate racing series, provided that it does not directly conflict with his INDYCAR commitments.
“As always, we will support Alex as he seeks a second series championship with the team.”
The dispute began last July when CGR revealed it was exercising its option with Palou to continue driving with the team in 2023.
A few hours later, McLaren Racing was announcing the signing of the young champion for the next season.
The young talent finished the 2022 season with a victory at the season-ending Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey, standing fifth overall.