Will Pato O’Ward remain with Arrow McLaren SP in the No. 5 Chevy once the current season reaches its conclusion?
The question has been raised within the NTT IndyCar Series paddock in recent weeks as rumors of the Mexican’s potential availability have grown. Thought to be under lock and key as the leader of AMSP’s championship aspirations, O’Ward gave an interesting response when asked about his future with the team.
“I am currently under contract with McLaren, but there are scenarios that could see me in a very different position at the end of this season,” O’Ward told RACER.
Pressed as to whether that meant he could become a free agent after IndyCar’s September season finale, O’Ward declined to comment.
A number of race-winning IndyCar drivers, including Alexander Rossi, Rinus VeeKay, and AMSP’s Felix Rosenqvist are seeking new contracts at the end of the year, and the driver market would be significantly altered with the inclusion of O’Ward on the list. Chip Ganassi Racing, Ed Carpenter Racing, Meyer Shank Racing, and Team Penske are among the teams that could be active in seeking high-profile drivers to fill vacancies or expand their respective programs.
Related to his future in IndyCar, questions also remain in regard to O’Ward and Formula 1.
Last year, McLaren CEO Zak Brown dangled the incentive of a F1 test for O’Ward if he reached victory lane with the No. 5 Chevy, and after claiming two wins and vying for the title, O’Ward took part in December’s Young Drivers Test in a McLaren MCL35M-Mercedes at Abu Dhabi. Afterwards, the 2018 Indy Lights champion professed his love for the car and the experience, with further mentions of a desire to compete in F1. At present, McLaren is the only entrant with teams in F1 and IndyCar.
O’Ward’s friend, former Andretti Autosport Indy Lights teammate, and direct IndyCar opponent Colton Herta was recently signed by the McLaren F1 team to embark upon a testing and development program to run concurrently alongside his full-time IndyCar effort with Andretti. No mention of O’Ward or future F1 tests for the 22-year-old were made in the McLaren release, but a McLaren representative did tell RACER that Herta’s F1 signing was not at O’Ward’s expense.
Asked whether he’s been added to McLaren’s calendar for any future F1 tests, O’Ward said, “No, not that I’m aware of.”