The annual competition has a twist: McLaren this year includes its IndyCar, Extreme E and Esports teams on the show. As for the IndyCar program, it was the recognition of the offseason restructuring that made McLaren the majority owner of the team.
McLaren ends a 40-year absence from IndyCar in 2020 when it returns to competition as a commercial partner with Sam Schmidt’s team sponsored by Arrow Electronics. The IndyCar program has been renamed Arrow McLaren SP – and the name has not changed – but McLaren is now officially at the helm.
“There are always increasing difficulties as you scale our way, but that’s it,” said Taylor Kiel, who just finished her first year as president of the IndyCar program. It was amazing and I think we were well received. “We were brought in with open arms and in all the internal communication they talked about Formula 1, and they talked about IndyCar and they talked about Extreme E and it was all very well balanced.”
McLaren’s launch shows off the 2022 design of the Indy cars, which includes an extra patch of blue for the No 5 driven by Pato O’Ward, and a lighter shade of blue than last year’s for the No 7. driven by Felix Rosenqvist. What’s more important is their presence in McLaren’s overall showcase.
Kiel, who started with Sam Schmidt Motorsports right out of college when the Indy Lights job was the only position he could land in, has risen within the organization and now finds himself running the operations. team daily. In an interview with The Associated Press, Kiel said the McLaren takeover allows Schmidt and partner Ric Peterson to “take a step back, what they were looking for” and cede control to McLaren chief Zak Brown Racing.
Brown’s expectations were made perfectly clear. O’Ward won two races and was part of the title hunt all the way to the season finale, but the title went to Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou. Team Penske and Ganassi combined for nine wins across 16 races, and Penske’s Palou and Josef Newgarden both finished ahead of O’Ward in the championship standings.
“Zak came in and he was so upbeat and belligerent and took me right in, like, ‘Hey, what does it take to get this to Ganassi and Penske levels? Let’s find it. Let’s get started,” Kiel said. “You’re always worried about momentum when something like this happens, but that’s cool and we talk weekly and we link and all on the same page.”
The team has made a significant leap since McLaren supported Schmidt’s program two seasons ago. It started with an overhauled team of drivers that landed O’Ward, who Brown got stuck when Red Bull Racing freed the Mexican from its development program because O’Ward was unable to obtain the necessary super license to compete. F1.
Brown believes O’Ward is a future superstar and the 22-year-old is quite open about his F1 aspirations. He spent the entire season strengthening his neck muscles in anticipation of used as of McLaren Test and reserve drivers at selected races this season.
Kiel believes O’Ward’s dreams won’t be a distraction.
“Once he’s locked into the race season, he’s going to look to the racing season, and you take that as salt because he’s still a 22-year-old kid, right?” Kiel said. “So there are some times when you have to be like, ‘Hey man, let’s refocus ourselves for a bit.’ But he’s wise beyond his years, he knows what needs to be done, he has an incredible work ethic and he’s clearly talented. “
The team that needed O’Ward also put their best effort into the frustrating parts of the job like data analysis and deep engineering errors. And if O’Ward really wants to move to F1, he has to score enough points in IndyCar for FIA to give him that super license.
“His work and his path there, if it opens up, is through IndyCar,” Kiel said. “He needs to perform, and he needs to perform at a high level and to be honest, not one or two race wins will put you in that position.”
McLaren also needs to significantly improve Rosenqvist, who will return for a second season with the team. Initially, Rosenqvist had difficulty driving the McLaren after two seasons racing with Ganassi. And as McLaren started hitting the record with the Swede, Rosenqvist was injured in a crash in Detroit and missed two races.
Kiel said Rosenqvist can still balance O’Ward, by keeping calm and thinking.
“For his eternal merit, and I will sing the praises of this man, he has carried himself as a professional through what was perhaps his worst year in history. sports car racing career,” said Kiel. “And at the same time he was watching his teammates compete for the championship. It’s hard for any professional gamer, but he was a great teammate and did an outstanding job helping not only himself, but Pato and the entire team. ”
McLaren plans to bring two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya back in May for the second year in a row to run both the road at the Indy and Indy 500. Montoya has driven for McLaren in F1 and finished ninth in Indy 500 last year for the team.
McLaren liked the bond between the three drivers at Indy and found the trio worked extremely well together – when Kiel stopped Montoya and O’Ward from speaking Spanish during technical briefs.
With McLaren now at the helm, a team once known for battling for the championship in a single season is now a title contender.
“We were a team that for many years had a bad mentality, we were able to rise above our weight,” said Kiel. “We just have to go out and do it now.”