‘Nothing comes close to this’ - What addicted O’Ward made of F1 debut

“This is the best experience I’ve ever had in a race car in my life.” 
‘Nothing comes close to this’ - What addicted O’Ward made of F1 debut

That is how Pato O’Ward described his Formula 1 test debut for McLaren in Abu Dhabi. 

O’Ward received his prize first F1 outing in Tuesday’s young driver test as a reward from McLaren CEO Zak Brown for claiming his first two IndyCar victories with the Arrow McLaren SP team on his way to finishing third in the 2021 championship. 

The 22-year-old Mexican ended the day fourth in the timesheets, 1.4 seconds off the benchmark lap set by Mercedes’ Nyck de Vries and completed a total of 92 laps as he adjusted to F1 machinery. 

O’Ward couldn’t hide his smile when he spoke to media including Crash.net following his maiden test, saying he was left “lost for words” by the pace, power and grip offered by McLaren’s MCL35M. 

“The opportunity is rare, once in a lifetime, but man, wow! Like, wow! These cars are ridiculous,” continued a beaming O’Ward.

“I was expecting crazy and insane and this is crazy and insane times 10. What these cars are capable of is… I don’t know how. I thought the IndyCar was fast and… it was just crazy man, I don’t know what else to say. 

“Just the first lap, as soon as I went out, I felt the power, the grip, the braking. The thing does whatever you want it to do. What a great experience and just what a car!”

Patricio O'Ward (MEX, McLaren F1 Team
Patricio O'Ward (MEX, McLaren F1 Team
© xpbimages.com

O’Ward completed both long runs and qualifying simulations as part of his programme for McLaren. 

One-lap focus was primarily left until the end of the day when O’Ward sampled both the C4 and C5 compounds - the softest tyres in Pirelli’s range.

O’Ward was left in total awe after completing three flying laps on C5s. 

“The change of direction, the downforce, the stopping power, it’s unlike anything,” he explained. 

“Nothing I’ve driven comes close to this, not even a hint of close. It is unbelievable.” 

One area O’Ward felt limited in was neck strength. This was something he had anticipated but admitted it ultimately prevented him from getting everything out of the car. 

“I was about to lose my head,” he explained. “My neck is destroyed. 

“In the morning I got to a good point but then we did some race running before we did some qualifying runs at the end and as soon as we put the softs on and we went through the fast corners my head was about to… 

“The issue for me, and I know where I lost some time, is the corners where you’re limited by neck strength, which I knew was going to be a problem.

“My last few laps, I was looking down with my eyes up trying to see where I was going at 180mph.”

Patricio O'Ward (MEX, McLaren F1 Team
Patricio O'Ward (MEX, McLaren F1 Team
© xpbimages.com

Despite his neck struggles, O’Ward said he felt “extremely at home” in the car and called the experience “addictive”, adding that every time he got out of the cockpit he was “left wanting to go in to feel it again.” 

“I don’t think anything has come close to it in terms of driving, in terms of feeling what it’s capable of, in feeling its limits, nothing comes close to it,” he said. 

"The feeling for example an IndyCar gives you is crazy, but you get into this and just the way it’s able to do everything so fast, and everything is so compressed, it’s like a video game, it’s unreal. 

“I have to say to extract the last bit of it for sure it takes a lot more commitment into the car. I for sure didn’t get to the limit in certain areas, I did in others. It’s normal, it’ll take time to build what it’s capable of and not go over the limit. 

“I didn’t want to go ‘you know I’ve got big balls let me just send it’ and end up in the wall.” 

And it is safe to say that O'Ward made an impression on McLaren, with executive director Andrea Stella commenting: "We’ve been very impressed with Pato’s speed, his attitude and how rapidly he’s learned."

Now he’s had a taste, will O’Ward be pushing for more F1 chances?

“Right now this is it,” he said when asked that very question. “This is all that is planned right now but I told Zak, man, you’re going to spoil me, I’m going to be annoying you after that test, I have a feeling!

“I didn’t want today to end to be honest with you. It’s just unbelievable. It’s just amazing. 

“What all us racing drivers want to feel is just go as fast as you can, brake as late as you can. You want to feel everything, and this car gives you that and more. 

“These things bend the laws of physics, it’s just absurd, absurd what they’re able to do.” 

‘Nothing comes close to this’ - What addicted O’Ward made of F1 debut

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