FORT WORTH, Texas. — A lot has happened at Arrow McLaren SP between the end of last year’s IndyCar season and now.
The Formula One arm of McLaren has signed Andretti Autosport driver Colton Herta to a Formula One development deal, adding fuel to the fire that Herta is looking to eventually land in F1. Herta has not denied his desire to compete in F1 at some point.
Pato O’Ward, who is the lead driver in the Arrow McLaren stable on the IndyCar side of things, also has F1 aspirations and was even granted an F1 test at Abu Dhabi last year by McLaren CEO Zak Brown. But, the signing of Herta by McLaren has raised eyebrows in the racing community leaving many to speculate what is next for O’Ward.
“I have a long championship ahead of me,” O’Ward said in a non-committal fashion as to what his future plans are. “Honestly, I love the group of people I get to work with (at AMSP). I’m fully focusing on what I’m doing right now and scouting out what my future is going to look like.”
O’Ward finished second in the IndyCar championship hunt last season behind fellow young-gun Alex Palou.
RACER Magazine reported earlier this week that O’Ward was leaning towards an exit from McLaren at the end of the season. Again, something O’Ward would not confirm, but also did not deny either.
“We’re all going to have to wait and see what that answer is going to be,” he added. “It’s early in the season to truly see what is happening. But, right now I’m focusing on delivering the season I know I’m capable of.”
“It’s a blip on the radar in my opinion,” said AMSP president Taylor Kiel. “We’ve already addressed any of the rumors or otherwise internally. We’re in a good place internally, and I think that’s all that matters to me.”
O’Ward said many drivers in his position dream of making it to Formula One at some point, but is bullish on staying with IndyCar if the right opportunity comes about.
“This passion I have for motorsports, it started with Formula One,” he said. “I love IndyCar racing. I think the series is on a constant rise. My job right now is to try and help that. Formula One is the pinnacle of motorsports, but in terms of competition, there is nothing hotter than IndyCar.”
He credits the parity of the IndyCar paddock as the reason the series is on a huge upward swing. O’Ward likens his current job situation to that of a “moving puzzle” and says the best thing for him to do now is to focus on what’s immediately ahead.
That would be IndyCar’s next race at Texas Motor Speedway in Ft. Worth. He won the second race of a double-header at the oval last year.