Alex Palou will make his FP1 debut for McLaren at next weekend’s United States Grand Prix at Austin’s Circuit of The Americas, with Pato O’Ward set for his outing in Abu Dhabi.
The two IndyCar stars have been testing a 2021 McLaren this year, with the most recent outing coming at the Red Bull Ring. Following on from that program, Palou — who RACER understands will join McLaren in IndyCar in 2024 — will drive for the team at COTA in place of Daniel Ricciardo as part of the mandatory running of rookie drivers.
“I’m so excited to be making my F1 weekend debut,” Palou said. “It’s great to be driving in the United States in front of fans that may have seen me race in IndyCar. Having driven the 2021 McLaren MCL35M in a few tests now, I can’t wait to put the MCL36 through its paces. I look forward to helping the team in their preparation for the United States Grand Prix.”
After Palou’s appearance, current Arrow McLaren driver O’Ward will get his first taste of the 2022 car in Abu Dhabi, where he previously completed the young driver test for the team last year.
“I can’t wait to get out on track in Abu Dhabi,” O’Ward said. “I’ve developed as a driver and had a lot of fun testing last year’s car with the team, so it will be a great experience to drive the MCL36. Thank you McLaren F1 for the opportunity.”
Team principal Andreas Seidl says the Austin appearance will help McLaren learn even more about Palou’s potential, having been courting the 2021 IndyCar champion and with him poised to join the team fully in a year’s time after remaining with Ganassi in 2023.
“We’re pleased to give Alex and Pato the opportunity to take part in free practice sessions with McLaren,” Seidl said. “With Alex’s great successes in IndyCar, it will be useful for the team to get his feedback on the car and for us to continue to evaluate him as a driver.
“Alex and Pato impressed with their recent tests in Barcelona and Austria and we’re excited to offer them the experience in the MCL36. It’s a great chance for them to showcase their skills on Formula 1’s global stage, where the focus will be to help the team prepare for the race weekend and not on ultimate lap times.”
Palou joins America’s Logan Sargeant at Williams, Robert Shwartzman at Ferrari and Theo Pouchaire at Alfa Romeo as confirmed rookies taking part in FP1 at COTA, while Antonio Giovinazzi will also drive for Haas.