Pato O'Ward says IndyCar is 'home', F1 is 'business'

Pato O'Ward (MEX) McLaren MCL60 Test Driver. 28.11.2023. Formula 1 Testing, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, Tuesday. -, EMail: © Copyright: Batchelor / XPB Images
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Arrow McLaren star Patricio "Pato" O’Ward has been contemplating the differences between the US open wheel series and the paddock atmosphere in Formula 1, after spending more time with the McLaren F1 squad in Abu Dhabi.

The 24-year-old Mexican used the opportunity of IndyCar's off-season to make a second FP1 appearance at Yas Marina, sitting in for Lando Norris behind the wheel of the MCL60.

He went on to work for McLaren in the post-season test at the same circuit, which saw him complete 103 laps and finish second-quickest behind full-time Alpine F1 regular driver Esteban Ocon.

While F1 remains his ultimate objective, right now O'Ward was struck by the stark differences between IndyCar and F1.

“It takes time to adjust to the different way of working and the different atmosphere in a F1 paddock,” he told RACER magazine. “The atmosphere in a Formula 1 paddock compared to an IndyCar paddock is so different.

"It is definitely a lot more business-oriented in Formula 1, and IndyCar to me right now is definitely what home is," he said. “IndyCar is my home and coming to the Formula 1 weekends I sometimes still feel a bit like an outsider.

"It has been getting better as I learn more and as I just put myself into situations that I’ve never been before, but it takes time," he explained. "It doesn’t happen from one day to another, it definitely takes time to adjust to."

With Norris and Oscar Piastri firmly embedded at McLaren, a transfer to F1 is by no means assured and right now O'Ward is happy where he is. "I have a lot of aspirations in IndyCar that I want to complete.


“But [F1] fuels my motivation,” he continued. "I see myself here, I really want to push and want to be here.

"I’d love a challenge in F1 because I know I’m capable of being what I am in IndyCar over here in Formula 1: consistently being a contender and being one of the guys.

"But no matter how enjoyable it is to drive an F1 car, there’s a lot of work that I’ve put in and a lot of work that I’m still going to have to put in to be at the level I have to be.

"It’s not going to come with just night and day, it’s going to take a lot of work. Just to feel like what IndyCar currently feels like, which is second nature, there’s still a lot of learning that I have to do.

"It’s more of an opportunity rather than a gift, because opportunities you need to take advantage of while gifts you just enjoy," he added. “It’s going to take work, that is definitely not something that’s hidden."

Pato O'Ward (MEX) McLaren Test Driver.
18.11.2022. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 22, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, Practice Day.
-, EMail: © Copyright: Coates / XPB Images

O'Ward has been keeping a close eye on the progress of Logan Sargeant at Williams, who is the first American driver in F1 since Alexander Rossi made five Grand Prix starts with the Manor Marussia team in 2015.

Although born in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Sargeant made his way up the motorsports ladder in Europe rather than through the IndyCar route, meaning he's not as well known in his homeland as he is elsewhere.

"I don’t agree that because he wasn’t in the American ranks he’s not well known," O'Ward said. "All these other guys also grew up in Europe but they’re very well known in America. I don’t think it matters where your upbringing was.

“It has nothing to do with ‘Oh he wasn’t in America’, that is definitely not accurate at all," he argued. “To be fairly honest with you, a lot of Americans have no idea what IndyCar is so I really don’t think it makes a difference.

"It usually speaks to results. I guarantee you that as soon as he starts laying down some really strong results, that recognition is going to go from what it is now to multiply it by 50 overnight."

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