The past two Indy Lights champions will drive in the NTT IndyCar Series in 2020 for Arrow McLaren SP, the team announced Wednesday.
Patricio O’Ward and recently crowned Indy Lights champion Oliver Askew will form the youngest pairing in the series next season. O’Ward is 20 years old, Askew turns 23 in December.
O’Ward won nine Indy Lights races in his 2018 title season; Askew won seven races this year. O’Ward has made eight IndyCar Series starts – the first with Harding Racing at Sonoma Raceway in 2018, seven with Carlin early in the recently completed season. O’Ward qualified fifth and finished ninth in his initial IndyCar Series race.
“With our background in Indy Lights, I’ve followed Oliver and Pato closely over the last few years on the Road to Indy,” Arrow McLaren SP co-owner Sam Schmidt said. “I couldn’t think of a better pairing as we write the first chapter in Arrow McLaren SP’s story. They’ve proven their skills on the Road to Indy and with an Indy Lights championship each, they are ready and deserving of full-time seats in IndyCar. I have no doubt that Oliver and Pato are the right drivers to move Arrow McLaren SP forward.”
Arrow McLaren SP are no strangers to developing young talent into championship winners. The team, formerly known as Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, is the winningest Indy Lights team in history with seven championships and have given IndyCar Series opportunities to rising stars such as Simon Pagenaud and Robert Wickens in recent years.
The pairing of McLaren Racing with Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports was announced in August.
“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 Gil de Ferran, Sporting Director of McLaren Racing and a two-time Indy car champion and Indianapolis 500 winner. “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.
“Both drivers were super-impressive in Indy Lights, racking up 16 wins between them over the last two seasons. We have taken time and care to make a driver selection that we believe is in the best long-term interests of Arrow McLaren SP.”
Askew called joining Arrow McLaren SP for his first IndyCar Series season “a dream come true.”
“The new team brings together three great partners, and it’s an honour to be representing them in this new chapter for the team and for my career,” he said. “This is an exciting new challenge for me and the next natural step after winning the Indy Lights title this year. I can’t wait to get started.”
The season begins March 15 with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
“I couldn’t be happier to be with Arrow McLaren SP for my first full season in IndyCar,” O’Ward said. “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.”
Also Wednesday, the team announced that James Hinchcliffe will no longer drive for the team and, while still under contract, is free to “seek and secure alternative options.”
The Canadian joined Schmidt Peterson Motorsports ahead of the 2015 season and scored three wins – at NOLA Motorsports Park in 2015, at Long Beach in 2017 and at Iowa Speedway in 2018 – and the Indianapolis 500’s pole in 2016 in his tenure.
The team noted that Hinchcliffe “admirably” led the team through moments of huge adversity.
“James has been a great ambassador for our team, and for the sport, over the last five years,” Schmidt said. “Our history dates back to his early days in Indy Lights, and we’ve been on a tremendous journey together. Most impressive was James’s determination to come back after his accident in 2015. I have the utmost respect for James and would like to thank him for his hard work and accomplishments during that period and wish him well in his future endeavours.
“We recognize that James is a fiercely motivated and determined competitor, and we won’t hesitate to release him unconditionally to secure another drive, whether in IndyCar or another series.”
Arrow McLaren SP co-owner Ric Peterson said Hinchcliffe’s passion for the team “has been crucial in our development since he joined us in 2015.”