O'Ward pleased to complete McLaren FP1 run after early glitch

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O'Ward pleased to complete McLaren FP1 run after early glitch

Formula 1

O'Ward pleased to complete McLaren FP1 run after early glitch

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Pato O’Ward admits he thought his FP1 at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix could be over on the opening lap but was pleased to show how his preparations have improved compared to his first run with McLaren last year.

The four-time IndyCar race-winner was only a few meters out of the pits when he reported a problem over team radio and was told to return to the garage without shifting out of second gear, with the car juddering heavily as he made his way round the lap. O’Ward admits he had no idea how serious the issue was but just hoped it wouldn’t stop him completing the hour-long session.

“At that point I was just trying to make sure my communications to the team were clear because I was getting bounced around quite aggressively in the car,” O’Ward said. “I don’t have much experience so I don’t know what that meant – I don’t think we knew at the time either, so we just came into the box and gave it a reset and that seemed to fix whatever the issue was.

“I’m not quite sure exactly what it was, I’m assuming it was something electrical – maybe a sensor or something – but I was definitely like ‘Ah I really hope it doesn’t get cut short’ because it was a very exciting time for me to get my first FP1 under my belt.”

The Mexican was making his first appearance on an F1 race weekend – ending up 18th overall after 22 laps – but has tested for McLaren before, taking part in last year’s Young Driver Test in the 2021 car and learning that his neck was unable to stand the G-forces for the entire day’s running.

“Man, I’ve done so much on my neck you have no idea!” he said. “I’ve always put a lot of emphasis on my physical fitness and I’ve always said I do not want that to be a limitation, but when you first step into an F1 car you don’t know what to expect. My neck had given up after doing a good amount of laps, but it wasn’t the case this time. It held up real nice.”

O’Ward also had the ability to speak to Alex Palou about the Spaniard’s for McLaren at the United States Grand Prix, but found that visibility from the cockpit made it difficult to push hard.

“[Palou] basically told me, ‘Man it is some difference but it’s still quick!’ For us it’s still a car that’s a lot quicker [than an IndyCar], especially with all the aero it has, and it still brakes mega and all that stuff. With what he said is in line with what I would have said as well – it’s hard to explain it unless you’re in the car trying it out.

“What I did notice is it’s a lot harder to see out of this car. I was also lower than what I would have liked to be, but we’re a little limited in options of what I could have done. I think I needed to grow an extra inch or two overnight, but it’s sadly not as easy as that. I was struggling to see a little bit, that’s something definitely whenever I come back I’m going to try and sort out, because an extra 10mm that you can see is a whole different world.

“It’s a different car, the positioning is quite a bit different. In terms of just driver positioning the legs are quite a bit higher, but a lot of how it likes to get driven… Certain tools that you have with last year’s car you can’t really use with this year’s car just because of how the tire has changed in terms of how it likes to give you the rotation or give you the grip. But it’s still an F1 car man, it accelerates, brakes, quick in the fast corners… It’s a joy.”

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