Pato O’Ward is set to begin his second season with Arrow McLaren SP, and he feels that the good relationship with his new team-mate Felix Rosenqvist, and the team as a whole, will help him earn his first IndyCar victory.
The young Mexican driver was impressive throughout the 2020 season, finishing fourth in the overall standings, but failing to lock down his first series win. Now he will have the added benefit of stable employment to help push him into the top spot.
This year is the first time since 2016 that O’Ward has been with the same team for consecutive seasons, and the familiarity with the entire crew brings extra comfort that is invaluable to a busy race driver.
He is joined this season by Rosenqvist who moved over after spending two seasons with Chip Ganassi Racing. Both drivers expressed their appreciation of the welcoming team dynamic at a press conference to reveal their liveries for the new season.
“It really feels like home to me,” said O’Ward. “I really enjoy spending time with these guys.
“The engineers and mechanics have really welcomed me like a family, as they have for Felix [Rosenqvist].
“We’re a big organization, but it feels very tight-knit. We spend a lot of time together. Just like a second family.”
The feeling of comradery is felt by Rosenqvist as well, who echoed O’Ward’s thoughts by saying, “Joining the team has been fantastic so far! I’ve spent a lot of time here getting to know everyone; I thought it was really important.
“It’s a fantastic organization. I’d say it has a family feeling to it, which really helps when you’re settling into something new.
“Arrow McLaren SP is a perfect fit for me as an individual. I love to work with the people here. It’s been very natural and I feel part of the team already.”
O’Ward, the younger of the two drivers, came agonizingly close to his first IndyCar win in last year’s pandemic-affected season. The 21-year-old held strong against his more experienced competitors throughout the year and impressively finished in the top-five at six events.
This included the 2020 season finale at St. Petersburg, when he remarked before the race, “I’d be lying if I said I’d be okay with a podium here,” before going on to narrowly miss out on the win by finishing second for the third time of year.
Those podiums have further fueled his desire for the elusive maiden victory, and also have proven that he can fight near the front at any race.
“The biggest thing this year for us is race wins,” continued O’Ward. “We need to get that first win out of the way, and then start racking up as many as we can.
“It’s such a competitive series, so we need to take the opportunities that are presented to us at every single weekend to the maximum.
“If we only have a car for fifth, we’ll take fifth. If we can win a race, we’ll try to win that race.”
O’Ward and Rosenqvist will get behind the wheel for a couple more preseason test sessions at Laguna Seca and Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the coming weeks.
Following that, the first chance for O’Ward to earn his first race win will be at the 2021 season opener from Barber Motorsports Park on April 18, a track that was not the on the IndyCar calendar last season.