Sam Schmidt explained why the newly formed Arrow McLaren SP team decided to go with Pato O’Ward and Oliver Askew for 2020 and let James Hinchcliffe go.
“…it’s a gut-wrenching decision, but we were faced with an opportunity to pick up these two young guns coming out of Indy Lights that already have 13, 14, 15 years worth of experience…” Schmidt said.
Hinchcliffe is still under contract, which the team will honor. If Hinchcliffe needs a release to drive for another team, it will be granted. Schmidt has no doubt that he will find a ride somewhere.
Robert Wickens is still part of the team as a consultant and driver coach. The car number 6 is still reserved for him, and Schmidt expects him at the majority of races next season. AMSP still has rights to the numbers 5 and 7, but hasn’t determined which driver will will have which number. No decision has been made on who will drive in next week’s aeroscreen test at Sebring.
The drivers are looking forward to their opportunities. O’Ward has run eight Indycar races and Askew debuts at St. Petersburg. O’Ward is excited to restart in Indycar with a newly organized team.
Pato O’Ward at Sonoma in his Indycar debut. Photo: Stephen King, Indycar
“I think we’re going to make a really good team. We’re both hungry for all the success. I think at his point both the team and we are growing, we’re
starting a new chapter in our careers and I think thesky’s the limit. So we’re going to be pushing, pushing, pushing and I know that with hard work and really
dedicating lots of time and thinking into our future and into our season we should be, we should definitely be up there,” O’Ward said.
Oliver Askew at Indianapolis. Photo from OliverAskew.com
Askew added, “I’m very excited to be partnering with Pato for 2020. I think we both get along very well and we have a very, like you said, a very similar driving background and very similar driving style coming from the Indy Lights car and working with Andretti Auto Sport as well. Our — we have the same drive to be successful, as does the team, and we plan on working very closely with one another to help each other grow and help each other get better in the series.”
The team plans to run a third car at the 104th Running of the Indianapolis 500 as they have done for the past 12 years. Fernando Alonso “remains an option” but nothing is confirmed.
AMSP could be an exciting team to watch in 2020. We have an idea of what O’Ward can do, and I’m interested to see how Askew adapts to Indycar.
The team has a lot of PR work to do with the fans. I think they could have handled the Hinchcliffe situation better, but this is a business, and tough personnel decisions happen a lot.
McLaren especially needs to demonstrate that they can run an Indycar team properly after last year’s Indianapolis debacle.
While Schmidt seemed to be the team’s lead spokesman during the teleconference today, I still wonder how much he and Ric Peterson will be involved in 2020 and beyond. I’d feel better if their names were more a part of the the team name and logo.