“I'm trying to find my center again” - O'Ward

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“I'm trying to find my center again” - O'Ward

IndyCar

“I'm trying to find my center again” - O'Ward

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Pato O’Ward is searching for something that isn’t exactly lost but certainly feels like it’s gone missing.

Coming off a starring performance in last year’s NTT IndyCar Series season where he won two races and vied for the championship for Arrow McLaren SP, the easy and instant speed the Mexican displayed in 2021 has proven elusive to summon when it’s been needed. From testing for the McLaren F1 team in December to testing the driver market, a few new layers of complexity — dreaming of the future in both regards — have emerged in recent months.

Qualifying 11th for Sunday’s Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach is by no means a disaster but with a start of 16th to open the year at St. Petersburg and finishes of 12th and 15th, the O’Ward who threatened to win at almost every circuit last year is waiting to make his first appearance in 2022. By comparison, teammate Felix Rosenqvist earned pole at the last round in Texas and starts fourth at Long Beach.

“I’m trying to find my center again,” O’Ward told RACER. “I’ve obviously been not as focused as I have been in the past with everything that’s going on and I’m trying to block it out as much as I can and it’s just not easy. It’s hard to do. It takes time and I’m working on it. It’s getting better but it’s not going to be [fixed] from one day to another. It’s kind of like they remove…a carpet under you. You’re unbalancing; you’re trying to gather yourself back up and move forward.”

Urged to modify his style of chassis feedback, O’Ward says the things he’s been asked to try so far with the No. 5 Chevy have not delivered the improvements that were expected.

“I still have my same engineer, my same performance engineer, but sometimes overthinking just doesn’t help,” he added. “A lot of the things that maybe I had to work on and try to improve, my way of delivering feedback — [the changes] honestly came more from the F1 side. ‘You need to do this, and you need to do that.’ But to be honest, I just don’t think it’s working. I just don’t think it’s the way to do it, at least for me. Everybody has their own way of working, and I’m in the process of getting back to me.”

After finishing 21st in Saturday morning’s practice session, O’Ward was encouraged by the leap to 11th in qualifying and attributed some of the gains to going back to his preferred interaction style with race engineer Will Anderson.

“Whether it showed it or not — obviously 11th isn’t the best for us in qualifying but I just felt better,” he said. “I felt more like me in the car today in qualifying. Sadly, [through] my whole career, when you stop listening to what your body [wants] and what you need, and you start listening to what other people want from you, [that’s] when things tumbled down. I’m trying to just look for what I need and make myself ‘me’ again, not just to try and please everybody around.”

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