McLaren building a talented cast of drivers now

INDIANAPOLIS — Zak Brown is as smart as a businessman as they come. He’s taken a page out of Chip Ganassi’s book and favoring “winners.” He likes them and in order to build the dormant McLaren brand before he took over, you have to find winners and surround them with resources to do just that – win.

He has good personnel in place so figured he better get them some drivers to pair. As we sit now, the future of McLaren is as bright as ever. Just look at what they’re assembling in the Woking and Indianapolis headquarters.

McLaren Racing has 3 branches in place for the 2023 season and beyond. They have 3 full time NTT INDYCAR Series teams as well as a pair of both Formula 1 and Formula E programs. The drivers under contract are Pato O’Ward, Felix Rosenqvist, Alexander Rossi, Alex Palou, Lando Norris and Daniel Ricciardo.

They also have Colton Herta under contract for the McLaren F1 Team as part of its 2021 MCL35M car testing program in 2022.

So, what do you do with them?

We know Ricciardo’s contract is up at the end of the 2023 season and his seat is widely coveted. It’s down to now O’Ward, Palou and Herta for it.

Rosenqvist is likely now headed to a Formula E seat as his contract doesn’t specify which series he’ll race in. They want experience in that Formula E program and Rosenqvist can give them that.

Palou is also on a similar deal to which they don’t have a landing spot for him either. The situation is murky for 2023 but you have to believe Palou will be in papaya colored apparled in 2024.

Alex Palou had scored more points in the 1st 3 races this year than he did in his championship winning one of 2021 – Photo Credit: INDYCAR Media Site

However, I don’t think you leave Ganassi to race in Formula E either if you’re Palou. You’re either in INDYCAR or F1 bound to make that type of decision.

With Herta already testing for McLaren this week and O’Ward last winter, Palou will get his chance at some point too.

Races After INDYCAR Season

  • Singapore (Oct. 2)
  • Japan (Oct. 9)
  • United States (Oct. 23)
  • Mexico (Oct. 30)
  • Brazil (Nov. 13)
  • Abu Dhabi (Nov. 20)

Herta isn’t hiding the fact that an F1 ride is a dream of his but he needs to do so sooner rather than later. O’Ward says the same thing. If you’re not in F1 by the age of 25, forget about it. Which is why both as well as new to the mix Palou, appear to be on a collision course for Ricciardo’s seat for 2024.

O’Ward is gaining superlicense points by finishing 4th in points in 2020, 3rd last year and currently sitting 5th (-65) this year. Palou already has enough points since he won a title last season. With his Super Formula program in 2019, he has accumulated 45 points and is eligible to compete in F1 now should he choose. He’d get more points if he takes part in an FP1 as well.

Herta though has some work to do in a sense that he has to get into the top 4 in the standings. He’s 74 points out of that with 8 races left.

If he can get into the top 4 and get a pair of FP1 sessions, he gets to the magic number of 40 superlicense points. That’s why he has to make a charge starting in Toronto because if 4th doesn’t look attainable, then why put him in more than 1 FP1 this year?

McLaren doesn’t want to wait too long before planning the next phase for these drivers. Which is why Herta needs a strong result in almost every race the rest of the year out.

Still, McLaren has a strong set of young and veteran drivers to propel them to a great future across all forms of motorsports that they’re competing in.

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