NTT IndyCar Series rookie and reigning Indy Lights champion Patricio O’Ward has joined the Red Bull Junior Team line-up.
The Mexican maintained today that he will continue to race on his part-time schedule in the 2019 IndyCar season with Carlin, but that he was delighted with the “great opportunity” given to him by Red Bull, which will allow him a chance to work his way towards competing in Formula 1.
“This is a great opportunity for me,” said O’Ward in today’s announcement. “Naturally, every racing driver has their eye on F1 and would give anything to be world champion so to join the Red Bull Junior Team that has provided that F1 possibility to so many drivers is fantastic for me.
“I’m thrilled to be contesting the IndyCar series with Carlin, apart from the Indianapolis 500 we are prioritising the road course so Indy is the only oval I am doing.
“I’m very proud to have been approached to be a member of the Red Bull Junior Team and thank Dr [Helmut] Marko and the team at Red Bull for seeing my potential. My focus for the remainder of the season is absolutely delivering results in the NTT IndyCar Series with Carlin. We have a great package and a lot of potential together. It’s great to race in an environment where we completely support each other as a team.”
After winning the Indy Lights championship at Portland International Raceway last year, O’Ward was awarded an IndyCar seat at the 2018 season-finale at Sonoma Raceway with Harding Steinbrenner Racing. His debut weekend was phenomenal, with Pato taking Harding to their best-ever qualifying position by securing fifth on the grid. He would go on to drive a strong race to finish inside the top ten in ninth place.
After his fantastic debut, O’Ward was signed by Harding to contest the entire 2019 IndyCar championship alongside team-mate Colton Herta. However, shortly before IndyCar pre-season testing at COTA in February, it was announced that O’Ward and Harding had parted ways, leaving O’Ward out of a drive. He would soon sign a new deal with Carlin, but the deal only covered thirteen of the seventeen races on the calendar.
Prior to the IndyCar season’s kick-off, O’Ward also competed in the Race of Champions in Mexico City. There, he would continue to announce himself to motorsport fans around the world, beating Race of Champions regulars and veterans such as David Coulthard, Johan Kristoffersson and others.
Despite the disappointment of missing out on his full-time IndyCar ride with Harding, the last few months have seen Patricio gain more and more reputation, with many now considering him as a star of the future. Today’s announcement of his signing by the Red Bull Junior Team, allowing him a clear path to Formula 1 in the next few years, is a continuation of O’Ward positive momentum.
Following today’s announcement, Trevor Carlin, Carlin team principal, commented that he was delighted that his driver, Pato, had been selected to join the Red Bull Junior Team. He would, however, go on to state that O’Wards focus was still very much on IndyCar; particularly, his first Indianapolis 500 appearance at the end of this month.
“We’re delighted that Pato’s potential has been recognized by the Red Bull Junior Team, a program that has helped incredibly talented drivers in the past. Whatever Pato’s future holds we know he has a successful and exciting career ahead of him,” commented Carlin.
“Together with Pato and the entire Carlin INDYCAR team we are very much focused on the season ahead and of course the Month of May. This is, without doubt, our most intense month of the year and the Indianapolis 500 remains the absolute jewel in the crown of all motorsport. Pato and the rest of the team are determined to make the most of our continued development and improvements on and off track and claim the best result possible.”
O’Ward will be back in action in his #31 Carlin Chevrolet at this Saturday’s 2019 Grand Prix of Indianapolis on the road course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Shortly after, the focus will switch to preparing for the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500, which will take place on Sunday, May 26.