Pato O’Ward explains differences between ‘rocket ship’ F1 car and IndyCar

Pato O'Ward is McLaren's official reserve driver for the 2024 F1 season

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Pato O’Ward has stated Formula 1 cars are rocket ships compared to IndyCars following his latest practice and test sessions in an F1 car for McLaren at the 2023 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

F1 and IndyCar may be the pinnacles of single-seater racing, but they are entirely different, with F1 cars more agile while IndyCar races on different types of circuits such as ovals and street circuits.

With McLaren needing to fulfil its second mandatory young driver FP1, O’Ward was drafted in to replace Lando Norris for the opening practice session at the Abu Dhabi GP and also took part in the post-season test.

Despite not having driven at the circuit since FP1 at the 2022 Abu Dhabi GP, O’Ward produced a clean session and finished 15th fastest with a time of 1:27.114.

Formula 1 it’s a rocket ship compared to the IndyCar, like the way it turns, the way it stops, the way it accelerates,” explained O’Ward to the media.

“The gearbox works very well in just everything about the F1 car it’s just on a different planet, to be honest, there’s no way there’s no other way to describe it. 

“You know what the car is capable of in high speed [corners] it really is a rocket on wheels. The IndyCar is definitely a lot more physical up on the arms, the F1 takes the cake on the neck. But no, the F1 is a way more capable car in every single way.”

More time in the F1 paddock in 2024

O’Ward will be more present in the F1 paddock from 2024, as prior to his FP1 appearance in Abu Dhabi, he was confirmed as McLaren‘s reserve driver for the new season. It means O’Ward will be on standby to race if the team’s regular drivers, Norris or Oscar Piastri, cannot race.

But O’Ward won’t be at all of the F1 races as he remains committed to competing for the IndyCar championship with Arrow McLaren IndyCar Team in 2024.

Since moving to Arrow McLaren in 2020, O’Ward has become one of IndyCar‘s quickest drivers, taking four series wins and becoming a fan favourite, particularly in his native Mexico.

“The priority is IndyCar we want to win Indy 500, we want to win the championship said O’Ward. “Once I’m done with my IndyCar duties, I’ll be travelling to the Formula 1 races.

“It’s gonna be a busy year. I sort of had this year already like that, so I’m a bit used to it.”

Ed Spencer
FIA accredited journalist
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