One of the big stories of the 2020 IndyCar season was the return of McLaren competing full time in the series. The British based team partnered with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (SPM) and its title sponsor Arrow to form Arrow McLaren SP.
The partnership’s first season together saw them needing to navigate a few challenges which involved a switch from Honda to Chevrolet engines. It also needed to get the United States based part of the team working effectively with the British based part, while also helping its inexperienced lineup of Pato O’Ward and Oliver Askew through their first full-time IndyCar campaign.
It was a difficult season for Askew whose 2020 IndyCar campaign was compromised in part by sustaining concussion during the Indianapolis 500. Nevertheless he did manage a best result of third in the first of the two races held at Iowa Speedway and was classified inside the top ten in two further races.Embed from Getty Images
O’Ward meanwhile had a strong and consistent season where the Mexican ultimately finished fourth in the championship. He finished on the podium on four separate occasions and was classified inside the top ten in a further six races.
Of its two full time 2020 drivers O’Ward came closest to delivering a race victory for Arrow McLaren SP. The Mexican finished a close second to Felix Rosenqvist at the second Road America race and also ran Josef Newgarden close for victory at the second race at Gateway.
Having come so close last season it therefore raises the question as to whether Arrow McLaren SP can go one further and claim a race victory during the 2021 season. The team, in its various previous guises, last won a race back in 2018 thanks to James Hinchcliffe’s victory in Iowa.
For this coming season the team will once again have O’Ward as part of its lineup. The Mexican will be joined by Felix Rosenqvist who has replaced Askew as the team’s second full-time driver. Juan Pablo Montoya is also due to join the team for the Indianapolis 500, and potentially a couple of other races around the Month of May.
Rosenqvist made his debut in IndyCar in 2019, driving for Chip Ganassi Racing. The Swede ran his teammate, and multiple IndyCar champion, Scott Dixon, close at Mid-Ohio in 2019 while also finishing second at Portland that year. Rosenqvist did manage to finally claim his maiden IndyCar victory last season at the second Road America race, beating O’Ward.
With O’Ward’s strong campaign last season and Rosenqvist joining the team having spent time at Chip Ganassi Racing alongside one of the greats of the series in Scott Dixon, it will be interesting to watch how Arrow McLaren SP performs during 2021. The team have a year of experience now running Chevrolet engines and getting its United States base and Britain base working closer and more effectively together. It has retained a young promising lineup in the form of O’Ward and Rosenqvist, but both drivers have shown in the previous two seasons that they are more than capable of competing at the front in IndyCar.
There have even been some within the team and observers wondering, or believing, there is a possibility for Arrow McLaren SP to challenge the ‘top echelon’ of Chip Ganassi Racing, Team Penske and Andretti Autosport for the title.
One of the questions surrounding Arrow McLaren SP is if it can maintain and build upon its 2020 performance. But of course the bigger question is can the team put everything together to deliver a first race victory this season, or challenge for/claim the title.