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F1 | Pato O'Ward's thoughts on 'ridiculous' rules to get an F1 superlicence

Pato O'Ward shared his thoughts on the ongoing debate over points needed for a superlicence and what has to be achieved to score the magical number 40.

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F1 | Pato O'Ward's thoughts on 'ridiculous' rules to get an F1 superlicence
Fuente imagen: mclaren.com

Pato O'Ward, driver of the No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet, spoke at an IndyCar Content Day last week to MotorLat.com and other selected media. In his typically honest and open manner, which has become his trademark, OWard covered a range of topics. This included the ongoing debate over points needed for a superlicence and what has to be achieved to score the magical number 40.

As a driver in the McLaren family, many are tipping Pato O’Ward for another run out in an F1 car sooner rather than later, after his first F1 test with McLaren in last month's Abu Dhabi rookie test.

All areas of McLaren work closely together. A point which was referred to by Pato O’Ward in his recent remarks.

“It's cool, man. It's really cool to be a part of this new McLaren acquisition with the team, and we're all one team, Extreme E, Formula 1, INDYCAR. It's really, really cool to see, great to be a part of it. There's been a lot of hard work in the off-season, a lot, a lot of hard work. I know we say that every year, but I sure hope that all these long hours and long days are going to be for something, and yeah, we're ready to get rolling.”

Any discussion of his Formula One ambition is for the future, for now O’Ward is concerned with his season ahead. With INDYCAR hitting new levels of popularity and interest it could be a big year indeed. Nevertheless, INDYCAR for all of its intense level of competition is not regarded by all as favourably as perhaps it should be.


To have any chance of racing in Formula One, a driver must acquire 40 points across three seasons in other championships. As such, the expectation is that any aspiring F1 drivers would work their way through the FIA's single-seater ladder to gain experience and in doing so score the required number for a prestigious F1 superlicence.

Pato O’Ward shared his thoughts on how INDYCAR is regarded when superlicence points are distributed. At present, IndyCar champions will earn 40 points, the runner-up scores 30 and then 3rd place in the championship takes home 20 points. However, from P4 onwards the number of superlicence points corresponds with the same positions from the far less prestigious FIA Formula 3 championship. Such an association between INDYCAR and F3 is something O’Ward finds bewildering.

“To me it's ridiculous that someone that's been fourth and third in the IndyCar championship can't get 40 points in the superlicense, I think many drivers agree with me,” O'Ward said. “From what I understand, fourth would give you 10 points, third gives you 20, so I'm assuming I'm at 30 points of the superlicense.

“Yeah, I haven't really stressed on that side because as much as I say, oh, maybe you can get a few points here, points there, at the end of the day you have to leave it to the people that want to give it to you. If they don't want to give it to you, then sorry, bud, you've got to have another year and get 10 more points, I guess.”

Of course, the simplest way to score 40 points is to win the championship in INDYCAR.

Having scored his first two INDYCAR victories in 2021 and finished third in the championship with Arrow McLaren SP, O’Ward is certainly more than capable of walking away with the title. Therefore, O’Ward has made clear that that his “one focus” at present is to win the INDYCAR championship and the Indianapolis 500 for good measure.

“I mean, right now I have one focus, and that one focus is in INDYCAR. I want to give these guys their first championship. I'd love to give them their first 500. This is what my focus is right now.” O’Ward declared.

Consistency will be key and that is what O’Ward lacked in 2021. As much as confidence may be high with the season upon him, O’Ward knows that there are many talented high performing teams in INDYCAR.

“We're not up to where Penske, Andretti and Ganassi are. We sure as hell are trying to and working hard for that, but they are Penske, Ganassi and Andretti for a reason. Yeah, I think we're definitely on the way. It's been a path, but I think we keep getting better and we keep putting the bar higher and higher every year. This year we've got it pretty much as high as you want it to be. We were close to the 500 win. We were very close to the championship win. Yeah, there's just -- the big cookies are left.

Motorsport moves fast and so does development. However, Pato O’Ward does not yet know the performance level of his 2022 challenger.

“I mean, it's hard to tell right now. I haven't jumped in the car. I haven't done any testing because testing is very limited. We're going to have one day before St. Pete. It's going to be in Sebring, which I mean, is not really enough time to fix all our issues, but it's definitely at least one day to be able to test things out. Yeah, I really don't know…until we actually test them on track and I get to feel them, I think that's when we'll truly know if all our work in the off-season is going to pay off or not.”

Whether it pays off or not, only time will tell. However, the challenge and level of talent in INDYCAR should ensure the battle is well worth watching. Should INDYCAR’s popularity continue to rise (despite a far smaller budget than F1 or NASCAR) it is safe to assume that superlicence values could finally change too. First though, there is a championship to win and in the category of motorsport where ‘nearly everyone can win any race’ surely the victor would have more than earned his seat in F1. Safe to assume that Pato O’Ward would certainly hope so.


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