The McLaren Racing Formula 1 team will field IndyCar stars Alex Palou and Pato O’Ward in two of the upcoming F1 practice sessions.
McLaren said Friday that Palou, the 2021 IndyCar champion, will complete the first practice session next Friday at the Circuit of the Americas in Texas. The Spaniard will drive Daniel Ricciardo’s car for the 60 minute session.
“I’m so excited to make my F1 weekend debut,” Palou said. “It’s great to race in the United States in front of fans who may have seen me at an IndyCar race.”
O’Ward will drive Lando Norris’ car in first practice at the season finale in Abu Dhabi. The Mexican took part in the Young Driver Test at the track for McLaren last December.
“I can’t wait to hit the 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’s going to be a great experience,” said O’Ward.
Palou and O’Ward have both tested the F1 car for McLaren twice in Barcelona and Austria since the end of the IndyCar season last month.
“Alex and Pato impressed with their last tests,” said McLaren team boss Andreas Seidl. “It’s a great opportunity for them to demonstrate their skills on the global Formula 1 stage, where the focus will be on helping the team prepare for the race weekend and not on ultimate lap times.”
With the two IndyCar drivers announcing mandatory reserve driver deployments in at least two practice sessions this season, McLaren has clearly gained access to Oscar Piastri no sooner than hoped.
Piastri is under contract with Alpine until the end of the year and will replace Ricciardo at McLaren next season. McLaren had hoped Piastri would be freed earlier and maybe even attend some training sessions before the season is over.
The Arrow McLaren SP IndyCar team will expand to three cars in 2023, with Indianapolis 500 winner Alexander Rossi joining O’Ward and Felix Rosenqvist. McLaren tried to add Palou, who signed with the team but was ultimately retained on his existing Chip Ganassi Racing contract.
Ganassi held the 2023 option for Palou, exercised it, and then failed to agree on a buyout with McLaren when Palou said he was leaving Ganassi. He will now end his Ganassi contract, will be allowed to test the F1 car for McLaren and is expected to join McLaren in 2024.