McLaren SP IndyCar racer Patricio O’Ward says he is “very keen” to move into racing in Formula 1 after he drove a 2022 car for the first time in Abu Dhabi.
The IndyCar championship contender was offered the opportunity to drive Lando Norris’s McLaren during the first free practice session for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Friday, completing 22 laps of running and ending the session 18th in the times, seven tenths slower than team mate Daniel Ricciardo.
O’Ward is one of a selection of IndyCar drivers who McLaren have offered test runs in their 2021 car this season under Formula 1’s ‘testing with previous cars regulations’, alongside Colton Herta and 2021 champion Alex Palou, who took part in the first practice session of the United States Grand Prix with the team.
After an hour of running with the 2022 car for the first time, O’Ward said there was a noticeable difference in how it feels to drive a current generation F1 car to one from under a previous set of regulations but that he was still impressed with the performance.
“So the car is different,” O’Ward said after the session. “The car feels different in the way that it rides.
“They’re not high-raked cars any more, so the bottoming is quite a bit more. The porpoising is quite a bit more. But to be honest with you, it’s still so much quicker and so much more grip and aero than any other car that you can drive that’s not an F1 car.
“It’s not really like, ‘oh, this is so different to what I drove last year’. It does feel somewhat different, but it still feels like a very fast Formula 1 car with a lot of aerodynamics. It still brakes phenomenal. As soon as you step into an F1 car, all the little things that you notice are still there. The car is still very, very quick.”
After admitting he suffered from the physical strain of driving the first time he tested a 2021 car, O’Ward said his neck fared much better behind the wheel of the current car.
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“I’ve done so much on my neck, you have no idea,” he explained. “For me, I’ve always put a lot of emphasis on my physicality. 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. And like I said, my neck had given up after doing a good amount of laps. But it wasn’t the case this time. He held up real nice.”