The McLaren team is planning on giving NTT IndyCar Series star Patricio O'Ward some track time at Formula 1 Grand Prix weekends in 2022 after a successful maiden run for the 22-year-old Mexican in last months' young driver test in Abu Dhabi.
McLaren CEO Zak Brown had promised O'Ward time in the car if and when he won his first IndyCar race, which he duly did with victory in Texas in May followed by a second win for the team in Detroit weeks later.
But he had to wait nearly six months to get the promised spell in the cockpit before he finally took the wheel of the MCL35M at Yas Marina - an experience that he described afterwards as "crazy and insane times ten!"
O'Ward said afterwards that he was setting a two year objective to make his way from the US open wheel series into F1. "I will do everything I can to make it happen, because it is the top of the top."
Brown was certainly pleased by what he saw: “He did everything that we wanted him to do and expected him to do," he told RACER magazine. "For his first run in the F1 car, was very strong.
"He was extremely fast and brave but that didn’t surprise us, so we were more looking to see how does he adapt? Does he keep it on the island? How’s his feedback? and all of that.
"Any time you put a driver in your F1 car, you only get so few test days and so few rookie days that you’re only going to put someone in that makes it a meaningful test," he explained.
"So it was a nice little reward [for his IndyCar wins] but we would only put him in the car to also understand how capable he is of driving a F1 car."
The next step would be to drive this year's car at an actual Grand Prix, with an outing in Friday morning's hour long free practice session, which Brown confirmed was now the plan for the squad in 2022.
New rules this year require all teams to give rookies an opportunity to drive in at least two sessions this season, with Brown saying the final decision of who that will be and at what races will be down to team principal Andreas Seidl.
“We have to run two FP1s next year," he stated. "Ultimately it’s up to Andreas first and foremost to make a recommendation and take a view of which.
"We’ll do a full analysis — there’s some more rookie testing to be done so one step at a time, but a very good first step.”
"In the two years Andreas and I have been working together, I’ve always agreed with his recommendations and suggestions," he added.
The new season gets underway in Bahrain on March 20, but that's the same day that IndyCar will return to Texas Motor Speedway, scene of one of O'Ward's first win in the series.
The most obvious events for O'Ward to be given his practice chance would be at either the United States of Mexican Grands Prix which take place in October, after the IndyCar season finale.