Pato O’Ward has “mind blown” with McLaren MCL35M Abu Dhabi test

Pato O’Ward has “mind blown” with McLaren MCL35M Abu Dhabi test

Pato O’Ward says his neck took a beating in what he has described as a “ridiculous” test session of the McLaren MCL35M in Abu Dhabi.

IndyCar Arrow McLaren SP driver, Pato O’Ward, received his reward for scoring his first race win with the team during the 2021 IndyCar season. O’Ward made a bet with McLaren CEO Zak Brown earlier in the year that should he secure a win for the team, he would be given the opportunity to test the McLaren MCL35M Formula 1 car in Abu Dhabi.

With the F1 season now wrapped after the final round at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, O’Ward was handed the reigns of the MCL35M, completing 92 laps around the Yas Marina Circuit. The Mexican was surprised with the grip and g-force levels, struggling to keep his head up towards the end of running.

“What a car, I’m mind blown with what the cars are capable of doing in the quick corners,” O’Ward said at the completion of his Abu Dhabi test day. “I was expecting something ridiculous, but this is more than ridiculous and I think my neck can speak to it. I was struggling to keep my head up at the end.

“My limitations of going quicker in the soft tyre at the end was actually not being able to see where I was going in the quick corners because there was so much load on my head I couldn’t hold it up. I couldn’t just hold it looking in the right direction. It was really cool, but I’m really happy to where I got, I truly felt like I was in with the car and pushing it in certain areas. For sure there’s things that will come with time. Just getting used to it. But I’m happy, I’m very happy.”

When comparing the differences between driving an F1 car compared to an IndyCar, O’Ward said there was no comparison between the two. What can be done and what you can achieve in an F1 car simply can’t be replicated in an IndyCar.

“It’s no comparison to be fairly honest,” said O’Ward. It’s not to bad trash IndyCar, it’s just what this car is capable of doing, downforce wise, is insane. There is nothing in the world that comes close to it. I don’t know how else to explain it, it’s unlike anything you’ve ever imagined and then times it by 10, that’s what it feels like.

“It feels like you’re in a roller coaster and going 200 miles an hour, and the thing doesn’t move. I was mind blown with just how much grip there was, and how much you can lean on the car in the quick corners.”

O’Ward isn’t the only driver to win a bet over Brown in 2021. Daniel Ricciardo earned the opportunity to drive Dale Earnhardt Sr’s 1984 Chevrolet Monte Carlo NASCAR around the Circuit of The Americas after winning the Italian Grand Prix. While more recently, Walkinshaw Andretti United Supercars driver, Chaz Mostert, earned the chance to drive Allan Moffat’s Chevrolet Monza sports sedan after winning the Bathurst 1000 race in Australia.

While Tuesday’s test day did provide O’Ward with the chance to cut some laps in an F1 car, McLaren were also gathering data on the new Pirelli 18 inch tyres for 2022, with Ricciardo behind the wheel.

“A very productive day,” McLaren Racing Director Andrea Stella said. “We obviously split the cars, with Daniel working on the 2022 tyres and Pato behind the wheel for the first time in a McLaren Formula 1, driving the 2021 car. It was very useful and interesting testing the 2022 tyres, with plenty of learning. We will review this data overnight and use it to prepare for day two as thoroughly as possible, with Lando at the wheel tomorrow.”

Cars will take to the track again Wednesday before teams break ahead of pre-season testing in 2022.