The last few months have been very positive for McLaren F1, with Andrea Stella’s team taking significant steps forward with the updates added to the MCL60.
There will be no complaints about the contributions from the Papaya squad’s drivers in 2023, though they will have to briefly step aside to give Alex Palou and Patricio O’Ward free practice runs later this year.
McLaren began the season in worrying fashion, suffering from reliability issues and an overall lack of speed in the season opener in Bahrain – in a not-too-dissimilar fashion from last year.
Upgrades starting from Austria have turned things around, with Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri demonstrating that the Woking-based outfit has a lineup comfortable fighting at the front.
Oscar Piastri has proven something of a revelation in this season’s campaign, showcasing a rare combination of speed and maturity for a 22-year-old.
The Australian is almost immediately justifying the excitement that surrounded him on the road to F1, although his arrival makes it difficult for the likes of Palou or O’Ward to make any impression on McLaren’s lineup.
In any case, CEO Zak Brown remains complimentary of McLaren’s full driver roster – explaining that Palou and O’Ward will have chances in Formula 1 machinery later this year:
“We haven’t made a final decision yet, but we have to use rookies in Free Practice,” Speedweek quotes him as saying.
“After the IndyCar finals in September at Laguna Seca, you will see the two in a Formula 1 environment.
“We currently do not have a race seat available, but I am absolutely convinced that both have F1 potential.
“Palou’s form this season comes as no surprise, but is nonetheless very impressive… and Pato can also become a Champion.”
There is no denying that Alex Palou is executing an outstanding year in IndyCar, utterly dominating a series that has relatively equal machinery across the field.
Unfortunately for the Spaniard, the opportunities for a full-time F1 seat are limited – with the most recent vacancy at AlphaTauri being swiftly taken by multiple race winner Daniel Ricciardo.
Considering how close Colton Herta was to a seat last season (having accomplished nothing close to the feats of Alex Palou), the IndyCar Championship leader might feel hard done by.
In any case, both he and Patricio O’Ward are set to compete in a competitive session for McLaren towards the end of the year.
Author: Jaden Diaz-Ndisang