Missing wins adding up for O’Ward

Missing wins adding up for O’Ward
Missing wins adding up for O’Ward

Pato O’Ward says that his efforts to win in 2023 have been unstinting, despite falling short of reaching victory lane.

In Saturday’s Gallagher Grand Prix on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s road course, the Arrow McLaren ace scored his sixth top-three finish of the year after starting fourth on the grid, but felt he was at a pace deficit to Graham Rahal and had to be content with beating another Rahal Letterman Lanigan, that of Christian Lundgaard, to take the last step on the podium.

Asked what it would take for him to score a win this year, O’Ward replied: “A fricking win would be great. I’ve been driving my ass off every single race. Like, there is nothing more than I want than to get wins.

“Obviously there’s been little things here and there that have got us out of contention and out of being able to kind of capitalize on that… I’m very pleased with today, very happy with how the team and I attacked because I was playing around with Graham in the warmup, and he was just stronger than me. I know he was. I knew it was going to be a tall ask, just from outright pace, to try and beat them.

“But I was very happy with my car balance. I was very happy with every other call. Yeah, we just got to keep pushing.”

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O’Ward was the highest starter to open the race on primary tires, and while teammate Alexander Rossi went past him, O’Ward was able to stay in the top five and remain in the picture, albeit losing time to leader Rahal. However, he discovered even with fresh alternates, he was only able to maintain his gap to Rahal when the latter took on his set of primaries, rather than make inroads into his lead.

“You were just really fast on blacks,” O’Ward told Rahal. “I was on reds, and I was maintaining. At that point [I] should be catching, [I] shouldn’t be maintaining. When I was on blacks and they were on reds, I was falling like a rock. I was miserable on them.

“I was in the same boat as he was. I had two heat-cycled reds I had to use and a fresh set of reds. I was very pleased to see that even with those two heat cycles, they held up really, really nice. So I was very happy with that.”

Overall, O’Ward said he was satisfied that he and the team had maximized a car that was simply not the fastest out there.

O’Ward managed to beat Lundgaard home but the top two remained tantalizingly out of reach for the Arrow McLaren driver Gavin Baker/Motorsport Images

“Every lap was a push lap for me today… Reminded me a lot of Mid-Ohio this year,” he observed. “But very pleased with today. I thought the team did a phenomenal job on my strategy, in the pits.

“I was very happy with my car balance. We’ve obviously got some catching up to do in an area. Yeah, I’m very happy with what we extracted from our tools today…

“Midway through, they were telling me we were third. Scott [Dixon, winner] and Graham, they were really quick. I mean, I struggled keeping Christian behind. But, yeah, managed it very well.”

Rossi finished the day fifth, while the third McLaren of Felix Rosenqvist suffered a mechanical failure, after running in the top six with his teammates in the opening laps.

Said Rossi: “Today was a good day. I think the biggest deficit we had was that our best Firestone tire, the alternate, was the tire we started on, so we weren’t able to open up as big of a gap on the primaries as we would’ve hoped. That probably cost us a spot or two.

“The biggest win this weekend was finding our feet in qualifying. This year, race pace has always been pretty good, but we have struggled in qualifying. There’s still a gap we need to close to cars in front, but the team has been putting the work in and we still have a couple of races to go.”


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