McLaren CEO Zak Brown says Alex Palou and Pato O’Ward are drivers that have the potential to excel in Formula 1.
Both drivers undertook a test programme with McLaren this year, largely in preparation for free practice outings they had toward the end of the season.
Palou and O’Ward stepped into the MCL36 for FP1 sessions in the USA and Abu Dhabi respectively.
The duo both compete in the IndyCar Series, with O’Ward holding a position in the Arrow McLaren team.
The Mexican driver has previously asserted that he would be keen to pause his IndyCar career if an F1 opportunity arose, with Brown commending both his and Palou’s abilities.
“The testing programme is very important,” Brown said. “Pato, our IndyCar sensation has now won a handful of races for us.
“We have an obligation in Formula 1 to run two free practice ones and we want to put in drivers that we think have F1 potential.
“You never know what’s going to happen and what you might need. We also want drivers that can help us develop towards that weekend.
“We put Pato in and then Alex Palou, who is an IndyCar champion. He did a fantastic job, he’s also done quite a bit of testing. You never know if a driver is going to get Covid, you need reserve drivers.
“We think those are two drivers that are in the McLaren family that have tremendous potential. So we want to give them good mileage and see what the future holds.”
Palou will race for Chip Ganassi Racing once again in 2023, following a contract dispute between the team and McLaren during the year.
However, McLaren has signed Alexander Rossi, who leaves Andretti Autosport following several years with the stable.
“We think he’s a championship calibre driver, he’s won a lot of races,” Brown said of Rossi. “Indy 500 winner of course [in 2016], has that F1 mindset.
“We like his experience, his professionalism. We are a young team so we think Felix, Pato and Alex are a great combination of youth and experience – and they’re all very fast.”