Alex Palou, Pato O’Ward to run F1 practices this season for McLaren Racing

Pato Palou McLaren F1
Sean Gardner/Getty Images

The Formula One team of McLaren Racing will run IndyCar stars Alex Palou and Pato O’Ward in a pair of upcoming F1 practice sessions.

McLaren said Friday that Palou, the 2021 IndyCar champion, will run next Friday’s first practice session at Circuit of the Americas in Texas. The Spaniard will drive Daniel Ricciardo’s car for the 60-minute session.

“I’m so excited to be making my F1 weekend debut,” Palou said. “It’s great to be driving in the United States in front of fans that may have seen me race in IndyCar.”

O’Ward will drive Lando Norris’ car in the first practice session at the season-ending finale in Abu Dhabi. The Mexican participated in the young drivers test at that track for McLaren last December.

“I can’t wait to get out on track in Abu Dhabi. I’ve developed as a driver and had a lot of fun testing last year’s car with the team, so it will be a great experience,” O’Ward said.

Palou and O’Ward have both tested the F1 car for McLaren twice since the IndyCar season ended last month, in Barcelona and Austria.

“Alex and Pato impressed with their recent tests,” McLaren team principal Andreas Seidl said. “It’s a great chance for them to showcase their skills on Formula One’s global stage, where the focus will be to help the team prepare for the race weekend and not on ultimate lap times.”

In announcing the two IndyCar drivers for the mandatory use of reserve drivers in at least two practices this season, McLaren clearly did not get access to Oscar Piastri earlier than hoped.

Piastri is under contract to Alpine through the end of the year and will replace Ricciardo at McLaren next season. McLaren had hoped Piastri would be freed earlier and perhaps even participate in some practice sessions before the season is over.

The Arrow McLaren SP IndyCar team is expanding in 2023 to three cars with Indianapolis 500 winner Alexander Rossi set to join O’Ward and Felix Rosenqvist. McLaren tried to add Palou, who signed with the team but ultimately was held to his existing Chip Ganassi Racing contract.

Ganassi held the option on 2023 for Palou, exercised it, and then couldn’t come to terms on a buyout with McLaren when Palou said he was leaving Ganassi. He’ll now finish his Ganassi contract, is permitted to test the F1 car for McLaren and is expected to join McLaren in 2024.

NEOM McLaren Formula E announces Jake Hughes will join Rene Rast for 2023 season

McLaren Formula E Hughes
McLaren Racing

Doubling down on their commitment to electric auto sports, McLaren Racing announced Jake Hughes will join Rene Rast to compete in the 2023 Formula E Series (FE), which completes their driver lineup.

The NEOM McLaren FE team was formed by the acquisition of the Mercedes-EQ Formula E team that won the 2021 and 2022 championships with Stoffel Vandoorne and Nyck de Vries behind the wheel.

“Today’s announcement feels like a long time coming,” said Ian James, managing director of NEOM McLaren Electric Racing in a release. “Since May this year, when we first announced McLaren Racing’s entry into Formula E, we have been working tirelessly to get in place the best possible team and structure for sustainable success.

“On the one hand, we have been working on the retention of the amazing talent that already was in place before going into the transitional phase. I’m proud to say I think we’ve done a great job on that front.

“On the other hand, we have been focusing on putting in place new processes and new talent – and the latter includes the drivers.”

The driver lineup clasps the two hands together.

Hughes brings 10 years racing experience in single seater cars, including a role with the acquired Mercedes-EQ team as a reserve and development driver for the past two seasons. He is the 2013 BRDC Formula 4 champion and has multiple wins in Formula 2, including two in 2020.

Announced in August, Rast joins the team after earning two podium finishes and six top-fives in 22 career Formula E starts for Audi Sport ABT before returning to the DTM Series last year. Rast’s best finish in Formula E came in the Puebla E Prix when he finished second to teammate Lucas di Grassi by less than a half second.

McLaren’s commitment to Formula E comes one year after they entered the Extreme E rally series in 2022 with Tanner Foust and Emma Gilmour in the driver lineup. After a modest start to the season, the McLaren XE drivers crossed the finish line first in Round 4 in Chile, but were assessed a time penalty that dropped them to fifth. Last week in the season finale in Uruguay, they held onto a hard-earned second place finish.