McLaren IndyCar Team Signs O'Ward and Askew, Drops Hinchcliffe for 2020
Two Indy Lights champions will lead the way for McLaren's return to IndyCar.
McLaren's hotly anticipated return to IndyCar is coming in 2020 and now, we know the pair of drivers who will lead the team: Patricio O'Ward and Oliver Askew. The Arrow McLaren Schmidt Peterson team confirmed the lineup on Wednesday while simultaneously announcing it had dropped former driver James Hinchcliffe from his driving obligations.
Askew impressed after winning seven races on his way to the 2019 Indy Lights title, which also earned him a test with Chip Ganassi Racing. His talent was recognized by McLaren Racing sporting director Gil De Ferran as well as Arrow McLaren SP co-owner Ric Peterson, who capitalized on the Floridian's availability to create a youthful building block at the newly formed outfit.
"As we look to establish Arrow McLaren SP and re-establish McLaren in the world of IndyCar, I’m delighted to be welcoming these two young, homegrown talents to the team,” said De Ferran. “Oliver and Pato represent the new generation of IndyCar drivers. Proven winners and exciting prospects, I have no doubt that they will form an excellent pairing as we take on the 2020 season.
O'Ward has long been a coveted prospect in the IndyCar paddock, and he was slated to run his first full season with Harding Steinbrenner Racing in 2019 before encountering budget issues. He was resultantly freed from his HSR agreement and used his Indy Lights championship winnings to fund seven contests with Carlin Racing, in which he gained a best finish of P8 at Circuit of The Americas. The Mexico native was then poached by Red Bull Racing, which introduced a possible road to Formula 1, although that deal was terminated fewer than two weeks ago after O'Ward was unable to attain an FIA super license.
“I couldn’t be happier to be with Arrow McLaren SP for my first full season in IndyCar,” said O’Ward in the team's press release. “I’ve had some great opportunities over the last year, but this is by far the greatest thing that could possibly happen for my career. I had a taste of IndyCar earlier this year and cannot wait to represent Arrow McLaren SP in the best way possible for a full season in 2020.”
Although unconfirmed, it appears as if O'Ward's parting ways with Red Bull is what led Arrow McLaren SP to sign him rather than retaining the veteran Hinchcliffe, who was thought to be in line for a 2020 drive with the team until this announcement was made. Hinchcliffe managed three wins and an Indianapolis 500 pole position during his five years with the organization.
It's uncertain at this point where Hinchcliffe will end up next season as few, if any, seats are available to the Honda Canada-sponsored driver. The cost to add a third entry to either Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing or Dale Coyne Racing this late in the offseason is believed to be unrealistic, and Hinchcliffe's former Andretti Autosport team recently signed star youngster Colton Herta on as a fifth driver with no intentions of adding a sixth.