According to F1’s sporting regulations, McLaren still had to fulfil its commitment to run a second rookie in an FP1 session later this year.
It had ticked off the first one with Oscar Piastri being nominated for his F1 debut weekend in Bahrain, and had been anticipated to give its second slot to Alex Palou – who had been expected to become one of its reserves from this weekend’s race in Singapore.
However, with Palou having gone back on plans to joins McLaren in IndyCar, the Woking-based squad has had to re-evaluate things.
Speaking at the Singapore Grand Prix, McLaren said that a decision had now been made to run Arrow McLaren IndyCar driver O’Ward in both Abu Dhabi free practice as well as the post-race tyre test that takes place the week after the F1 season finale.
The Abu Dhabi run will be the Mexican’s first appearance at an F1 weekend since he had his debut free practice run at last year’s Abu Dhabi event.
Pato O’Ward, McLaren IndyCar Driver
Photo by: Steven Tee / Motorsport Images
Speaking at the Singapore Grand Prix, McLaren team principal Andrea Stella explained that it believed O’Ward was now eligible for an F1 superlicence after finishing fourth in this year’s IndyCar championship – so hopefully could join its roster of reserves.
Furthermore, he said that it was now settled on his test plans for the end of the year.
“We are actually checking with the FIA, and we think he’s eligible now for the superlicence,” explained Stella.
“So he’s qualified to drive an F1 car and be in a position to be one of the reserve drivers.
“In terms of the two main [free practice] events that would have involved either Alex or Pato, we had to do one more session of free practice one, where we have to have a so-called young driver, so a driver that hasn’t participated in more than two races. And then we have the post-Abu Dhabi test.
“Initially, these kind of events would have been split between the two, but obviously now in this situation, we will have Pato at the wheel in FP1 in Abu Dhabi and then I can confirm that he will also be driving the Tuesday after the race in Abu Dhabi.”