IndyCar has quickly become one of the most coveted racing series in America. The popularity is bolstered by a rich history, talented drivers and some huge names that have competed on its tracks including Mario Andretti and Ayrton Senna. While Pato O’Ward may not be as well-known yet, he’s already making massive waves with his impressive resume.
IndyCar driver Pato O’Ward keeps his Formula One dreams alive while making a name for himself. He is currently the highest-ranked American driver in the series, and has made an impressive start to his rookie season.
2nd of March, 2022
Mexico’s Eric Gomez is a writer.
Patricio O’Ward realized a childhood goal last winter when he got behind the wheel of a Formula One vehicle for the first time. Even though the 22-year-old Mexican driver known as “Pato” started his third IndyCar Series season only last weekend, his ultimate aim remains the same: to make it to Formula One, where his countryman Sergio “Checo” Perez has made waves after more than a decade of racing.
When O’Ward got a taste of the team’s most powerful car in December, he had just finished his second IndyCar season with Arrow McLaren. McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown offered him the chance in exchange for winning at least one race in 2021.
Pato came away with two victories.
“I remember really loving that and seeing what those incredible vehicles are capable of, which is just mind blowing,” O’Ward said last week to ESPN. “Watching a Formula One vehicle in action, the cars simply do everything so well.”
O’Ward had a similar start last year, placing 19th in St. Petersburg before bouncing back with a podium result in his following race. It was O’Ward’s first of five podium finishes, an achievement that drew widespread recognition in his home Mexico, which, owing in large part to Perez, continues to grow its racing fan base.
Perez isn’t the first Mexican driver to have recently entered Formula One’s ranks. From 2013 through 2016, Esteban Gutierrez raced for Sauber and Haas for three seasons. The concept of discovering the next Checo, on the other hand, has focused greater attention on O’Ward, who has gotten high acclaim from Perez himself.
“To be honest, I believe Pato is really gifted; all he has to do now is adjust to Formula One,” Perez told Racer magazine after O’Ward won his maiden IndyCar race last June. “I believe he has the ability to compete against the top drivers in the world.”
Mexico has made an impression on Formula One. From 1961 until 1981, the nation had four drivers. Pedro Rodriguez, the most successful, won two races (equal to Checo’s current total) before being killed in a collision in West Germany in 1971 at the age of 31. Checo’s debut, three decades after Hector Rebaque’s last season in 1981, rekindled Mexico’s interest in the sport.
After more than two decades off the racing schedule, the Mexican Grand Prix returned to the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in 2015. Despite the potential cancellation in 2020, it has unquestionably established itself as one of Formula One’s premier events. Tickets on the secondary market went for up to $20,000 in 2021. The Mexico GP was Formula One’s second-most-attended race weekend, with over 300,000 people in attendance.
Perez had his greatest year to date last season, scoring 190 points. Another Mexican driver, such as O’Ward, could be able to persuade a Formula One team to give him a chance. Racing teams are required by regulation to provide its prospects with two free practice runs every season. McLaren is considering O’Ward for the job.
Brown said in St. Petersburg, “We haven’t chosen who to put in yet, but he’s obviously a possibility.” “Okay, [a possible IndyCar championship] is a nice thing. However, we’re more concerned with our F1 testing and making comparisons with other drivers.”
Daniel Ricciardo and Lando Norris are McLaren’s current Formula One drivers. Norris has long been regarded as one of the best possibilities in the United Kingdom, while Ricciardo won the team’s sole race in 2021, triumphing in Italy. If O’Ward wants to be called up in the near future, one of the two must depart first.
If Brown summons him for a practice run, O’Ward has already decided which races he wants to participate in. O’Ward was born in Monterrey, Mexico, and came to San Antonio when he was 11 years old. He still calls Texas home.
“If I had to choose between Mexico and Austin, I’d definitely go with Mexico since I consider both of them my home,” O’Ward remarked. “I’m from Mexico, and I’ve been in Austin for the last ten years.”
Both races would undoubtedly be suitable settings for O’Ward to appeal to his core fanbase. Even if that doesn’t happen, fans can still travel across the United States to see him compete in IndyCar events. Fans in Mexico and Latin America may watch the race on ESPN, IndyCar’s regional broadcast partner.
Finally, it’s difficult for O’Ward to deny his ultimate purpose, as well as the inherent duality that comes with it: focus on IndyCar for the time being, with the hope that Formula One will become a clear possibility in the future.
He remarked, “I was the six-year-old boy who fell in love with everything because of Formula One.” “It’s a childhood fantasy that will never leave my heart since it’s what inspired me to become the person I am today.”
IndyCar driver Pato O’Ward keeps his Formula One dreams alive while making a name for himself. He has been on the podium three times this season and is currently ranked eighth in the standings. Reference: indycar standings.
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