McLaren Arrow SP has announced it will field American rookie Oliver Askew and Mexican driver Pato O’Ward for the 2020 IndyCar season.
The move means that fan-favorite driver James Hinchcliffe, who was under contract for the 2020 season, is currently without a ride for next year. The McLaren team, which will use Chevrolet engines, had previously indicated that Hinchcliffe would remain with the team, before going back on their word this week.
In an interview with Racer, McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown said the last-minute decision to ditch the 32-year-old Canadian driver in favor of two younger talents was made out of a desire to “take a long-range view” on the team.
Patricio O’Ward ran a part-time campaign in the IndyCar series this year before being picked up by Red Bull Racing’s F1 junior team, who backed him for two Formula 2 races and three Super Formula races. Confusion over Super License points ultimately led to Red Bull releasing him from the contract, leading to him being picked up by McLaren for its IndyCar campaign.
“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.”
Oliver Askew, meanwhile, was the 2019 Indy Lights champion—taking seven wins en route to the title to beat out runner-up Rinus VeeKay.
“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 McLaren Racing sporting director Gil de Ferran. “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.”
It is also understood that McLaren will field a third car for the 2020 Indianapolis 500. Former F1 driver Fernando Alonso was previously thought to be a shoe-in for the seat, but in an interview with Racer, Brown said that Hinchcliffe would be in the running for the third seat if he did not find another team to race for in 2020—potentially hinting that Alonso may be exploring other options for next year’s Indy 500, or perhaps sitting it out.