New IndyCar race winner Pato O’Ward says the series has “the best racing in the world”, but if his freshly confirmed Formula 1 test with McLaren leads to a race opportunity he’d be “dumb” not to consider a switch.
In his second full season of IndyCar, O’Ward grabbed his maiden IndyCar victory in the second race at Texas last weekend.
Before the season started McLaren boss Zak Brown had promised O’Ward an F1 test outing after Abu Dhabi concluded the season if O’Ward could take an IndyCar race victory in 2021.
It was also the first win for McLaren after it bought into the Schmidt Peterson team to become Arrow McLaren SP for the 2020 season.
“My heart’s with IndyCar,” said O’Ward after Sunday’s race.
“It’s just great racing and it’s so, so competitive. I think for a driver there is nothing harder in the world.
“I think many drivers can agree with me that have come from Formula 1 to IndyCar, back to Formula 1.
“You know what, Formula 1 is the peak of technology. Everybody wants to go there.
“If the opportunity ever came by Zak, he said ‘there’s a seat open, I want you in my team’, I’d be pretty dumb not to take it because it would just be a crazy opportunity. They don’t come often.
“Right now I’m focused on the job that I have right now in IndyCar. I want to make the best of it.”
O’Ward has come close to Formula 1 in the past as he gave up on a part-time Carlin IndyCar seat to become a Red Bull junior in 2019, but odd outings in Formula 2 and Super Formula didn’t get him anywhere near the required super licence points for F1.
He joined McLaren at the end of that year.
The exact details of his F1 test are yet to be revealed but Zak Brown has confirmed it will go ahead since Sunday, making good on his promise.
After four races, O’Ward is second in the IndyCar points standings behind defending six-time champion Scott Dixon, having finished fourth last year.
He took pole position for the opening race of the year at Barber Motorsports Park – which Brown chose to attend instead of the Imola F1 race – but committing to a three-stop strategy meant he had to fight back to score fourth.
Handling issues blighted his St Pete race after qualifying sixth he finished 19th, but he scored a double podium at Texas earning third behind Scott Dixon and rookie Scott McLaughlin in race one before claiming his maiden win in race two.