Pato O’Ward’s admits that his upcoming Formula 1 test for McLaren in Abu Dhabi is only just sinking in, and believes that any driver who claims they didn’t grow up wanting to race in the world championship is lying.
McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown promised O’Ward an F1 testing opportunity at the end of the season as a reward for winning his first IndyCar race, and O’Ward duly delivered in the fourth round of the season at Texas. After finishing third in the 2021 IndyCar drivers’ standings, O’Ward will test the F1 car in December. Andretti Autosport’s Colton Herta has been linked with a future switch to F1, and the Arrow McLaren SP driver says it would be a dream to race in a grand prix in the future.
“Once my year was done is where I kind of let all the F1 stuff sink in,” O’Ward told RACER. “Because it’s a lot to take in, man. Like I’ve told everybody, I’m fully focused on being the champion in IndyCar and trying to win the 500 – I want to achieve that. And it’s been a dream of mine for many years.
“But whoever tells you that they don’t grow up wishing or wanting to be in Formula 1 is lying. Formula 1 is Formula 1, and that’s what sparked my love for motorsports in general.
“The first race or the first event that I’d ever been to in person was a Formula 1 event and I can remember like it was yesterday, the cars just screaming. I was like three or four miles away from the track, and you just hear that ‘neeeeeowwww – bam bam!’ I was like, ‘What the hell is this?!’
“I didn’t know what to do. I was… I still get goosebumps right now talking about it just because I didn’t know what to do, man. Like today, when I sat in the car, I was like a kid in a candy store, because this is what I grew up watching.”
— McLaren (@McLarenF1) October 15, 2021
Despite earning his chance to drive the 2021 F1 car with victory in Texas in May, 22-year-old’s never let it cross his mind until the IndyCar season was over.
“Honestly, I didn’t want to think about it too much because I knew it was going to feel more pressure,” he said. “So I just blocked that off in my head. Only today I’m just realizing what I am doing and what I’m going to do in December. It never sunk in; it never sunk in all year.
“But I feel like that was good from my part. My body shut it off. And just now being here and being in the sim and the seat fit… stuff is really going to sink in, like, ‘oooh, this is going to be cool.’”