until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League


McLaren’s IndyCar team revolution needs time to take effect

by Jack Benyon
4 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

Arrow McLaren SP’s influx of staff in the IndyCar off-season has led to significant publicity.

But its star driver has cautioned against expecting too much too soon from the team’s new recruits.

Since McLaren took an initial stake in the Schmidt Peterson team for the 2020 season, the squad has implemented a Formula 1 style set-up with a dedicated group back at the factory in the UK supporting the at-track staff’s decision making and statistical analysis.

Feb 21 : Everything you need to know about the 2022 IndyCar season

Then since McLaren expanded its presence to controlling stake in the team, announced in August 2021, it has promised to invest heavily and a number of personnel have been adopted from the F1 programme.

This has been topped off by the marquee signing of Gavin Ward, Josef Newgarden’s Penske engineer who has previously worked in aerodynamics and electronics at Red Bull’s F1 team.

However, Arrow McLaren SP driver Pato O’Ward has warned against expecting too much from the new members of the team too quickly as they bed into their new roles.

“I think we’re going to see a lot more of a difference longer term,” said O’Ward.

“I think it’s too much to expect right now but throughout the year and as the team goes on, that’s where you’ll see the difference.

“They have to analyse data, they have to understand it’s a new series, for a lot of the guys, they are coming from Formula 1 or other series that are not IndyCar, and they’re very different.

“The way you have to work in IndyCar is just different.

“I think it’s going to be helpful, because they are very smart people and switched on guys and girls.

“So I truly hope it’s soon, but don’t know if that’s the right thing to say right now. Good things take time and the understanding of everything is the important thing.”

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O’Ward’s team-mate Felix Rosenqvist said the overall line-up in the team at events was “generally the same people, I’d say” as in 2021.

“There’s been a few new faces around, some differences with McLaren taking a bigger stake in the team last year. But I think that’s been a good thing,” he added.

“We haven’t flipped the whole thing upside down. I feel like the atmosphere has been pretty good.

“Everyone is pumped, everyone is focused, and I feel like we really attacked the areas we know we could improve.

“It’s a competitive sport and changes have to be made, but in general we’re excited to go.

“I think as a team the #7 car is going to be stronger.”

One of the reasons Rosenqvist’s entry may be stronger is thanks to the addition of Craig Hampson as his engineer.

Hampson was previously the head of R&D overseeing both cars, but now Ward takes over a similar role and Hampson gets back to engineering – the role where he helped Sebastien Bourdais to four straight Champ Car titles at Newman/Haas. Hampson’s record also includes two Indianapolis 500 wins while at Andretti Autosport in a wider role.

The reassignment of Hampson and the addition of Ward have rightfully brought about a lot of attention from fans and the media, but O’Ward is right to urge caution in terms of the short term impact.

Ward and Hampson’s moves come at a time when there’s only a single test day for each driver ahead of the season, so it’s going to take some time for Ward to learn about the team before he can have a significant impact.

Hampson may well bed-in quicker having worked for the team since 2020 but even he will need some time to learn how best to work with Rosenqvist over a race weekend.

All eyes will be on the St Petersburg opener in particular as it’s a circuit the team struggled at in 2021, despite being strong on some other street courses. Rosenqvist was 12th last year and O’Ward was 19th, so at least the bar is low.

But the moves McLaren is making to bolster its IndyCar team are a much longer game than just sorting out one weak circuit.

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