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McLaren hands Abu Dhabi FP1 outing to O'Ward


McLaren has announced that it will run IndyCar charger Pato O'Ward in the opening practice session at F1's season-ending in Abu Dhabi.

O'Ward's presence at Yas Marina will fulfill McLaren's mandatory duty of running an F1 rookie in at least two practice sessions this season, with Oscar Piastri fitting the bill in Bahrain at the start of the year.

McLaren had previously earmarked Alex Palou for FP1 in Abu Dhabi, but the two-time IndyCar champion's decision to renege on a deal to race for Arrow McLaren SP in 2024 has put the two parties at odds with each other, with litigation pending.

Following its dispute with Palo, McLaren is hoping to assign O'Ward to a reserve role with the team in 2024 as it believes that the Mexican is now eligible for an F1 Super Licence.

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In addition to first practice in Abu Dhabi, O'Ward will also take part in F1's post-season test at Yas Marina with McLaren.

O'Ward's run in Abu Dhabi will mark the 24-year-old's second official appearance in F1 after his debut at the same venue in 2022.

"We are actually checking with the FIA, and we think he's eligible now for the superlicence," explained McLaren team boss Andrea Stella.

"So he's qualified to drive an F1 car and be in a position to be one of the reserve drivers.

Pato O'Ward (MEX) McLaren MCL36 Test Driver. 18.11.2022. Formula 1 World Championship, Rd 22, Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, Yas Marina Circuit, Abu Dhabi, Practice

"In terms of the two main [free practice] events that would have involved either Alex or Pato, we had to do one more session of free practice one, where we have to have a so-called young driver, so a driver that hasn't participated in more than two races. And then we have the post-Abu Dhabi test.

"Initially, these kind of events would have been split between the two, but obviously now in this situation, we will have Pato at the wheel in FP1 in Abu Dhabi and then I can confirm that he will also be driving the Tuesday after the race in Abu Dhabi."

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