The Arrow McLaren SP team has exceeded all expectations for its 2020 IndyCar season. While anything with the McLaren name is expected to be quick, it was surprising that its two young drivers—Patricio O’Ward and rookie Oliver Askew—have been so impressive. And it’s looking like the team might opt to add a third car for the 2021 season, likely inhabited by a more veteran driver.
A new RACER interview with Sam Schmidt, former driver and now co-owner of the Arrow McLaren SP team, expresses optimism that the team can flourish now that it has established solid roots in 2020.
“Our plan is to stay the course, as it pertains to these two drivers,” Schmidt said of O’Ward and Askew. “We think it’s the future of the company, onward and upward.”
And while the younger drivers have proved successful, Schmidt has his eye on experience should the team opt to add a third car. From the article:
We need to be competitive with a three-car team, but we’re also not going to do it without proper resources for the third car.
I think that would make the obvious choice, right, to not do another rookie right behind them, so it could very well be a partial season where it’s a veteran at the Speedway in the third car and then somebody else in multiple races after the Speedway, or it could be a full season. There’s just a lot of options that we’re throwing against the wall with anybody that wants to listen. And, there are some drivers out there, not necessarily in this series, but in other series that are becoming available, Helio or Juan Pablo would be absolute animals at the Speedway in a third car, but we’re not in a position to offer them a full season, either.
Schmidt is referring to Helio Castroneves and Juan Pablo Montoya, two veteran drivers that are currently competing with Team Penske in the IMSA series. Because Penske is leaving the series, though, both drivers will be free agents for 2021, and Castroneves has expressed definite interest in competing in IndyCar on a part- or full-time basis.
There are other free agents in the racing world, too. Formula One driver Sergio Perez was unceremoniously dumped from his Racing Point F1 Team in favor of Sebastian Vettel, and the driver has previous ties with the McLaren outfit. While Perez isn’t necessarily a veteran in the sense that he’s competed in IndyCar, but his near decade in F1 certainly counts for something.
He also has the added appeal of hailing from Mexico, just like O’Ward. Pairing these drivers on the same team opens up great marketing opportunities in the country, which is always a good thing when it comes to growing an audience.
Perez himself has a huge fanbase. One of my favorite parts of attending the US Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas is just watching the sea of people who show up for the Perez autograph session. People from all over Mexico make the trek to COTA just to see him race, and, with two races in Texas, IndyCar as a whole could benefit.
Whatever Arrow McLaren SP chooses to do, it can only grow from here.