McLaren: Analyzing the F1, IndyCar, and Formula E seats for 2023

McLaren - F1

An early F1 exit for Daniel Ricciardo? Alex Palou drama in IndyCar? Who drives for the new McLaren Formula E team? Let’s take a look.

Every racing series has a silly season. When speculation circles around driver movement for the following year. But rarely have we seen such a wild rumor market surrounding one team, McLaren, and multiple racing series. First came McLaren CEO Zak Brown’s comments about Daniel Ricciardo’s future in F1. Their organization confirmed signing four different IndyCar drivers, despite only having three seats in that series. McLaren announced their purchase of the Mercedes-EQ team and plans to join Formula E next season. Then came the incredible drama between Ganassi Racing and Alex Palou. There are a lot of questions so let’s break them down.

Q: Okay, let’s start with what is 100% confirmed? Or at as much as it can be in Motorsport. 

A: In Formula 1, Lando Norris is locked in and Daniel Ricciardo is technically under contract for 2023. For the IndyCar Series, both Pato O’Ward and Alexander Rossi are locked into multi-year deals. In Formula E, McLaren enters the series next season taking over the Mercedes-EQ team, which will be powered by Nissan, but says they will have a brand new driver lineup. Felix Rosenqvist is under contract for 2023, but not tied to a particular series.

Q: A lot of this centers around Ricciardo’s seat. So which drivers have been rumored to take it? 

A: Alex Albon. Sebastian Vettel. Oscar Piastri. Alex Palou. Colton Herta. Pato O’Ward. Felix Rosenqvist. Now Daniel hasn’t had a great season, but this level of rumors for one seat is quite remarkable.

Q: Who from Alex Palou, Pato O’Ward, Alexander Rossi & Felix Rosenqvist have experience in F1 or Formula E? 

A: Interestingly enough, every driver listed in that question has at least some experience in European single-seater racing. However, only Rossi and Rosenqvist have competed in Formula 1 and Formula E respectively. Rossi served as a test driver for Caterham in F1 from 2012-2014 and then went on to compete in seven races in 2014 and 2015 for Marussia. As for Rosenqvist, he is actually a three-time Formula E race winner, finishing third in the championship with Mahindra Racing in 2017. Something else to note is that O’Ward tested the MCL35M at the 2021 Young Drivers test, setting the fourth-fastest time of 19 drivers.

Q: Why would McLaren keep the Mercedes-EQ team personnel and not their drivers? Nyck de Vries is the reigning Formula E Champion and Stoffel Vandoorne is a former McLaren F1 driver. 

A: de Vries is the Mercedes F1 reserve driver and is expected to join the new Maserati Formula E team next season. He may add the World Endurance Championship (WEC) as well, so let’s rule him out.  Meanwhile, while McLaren has a history with Vandoorne, they probably view him as an avenue already traveled. And there are rumors that he will join the new Dragon Racing Formula E team.

Q: Wait, don’t McLaren have a history of developing some big names? 

A: Their academy program has seen several F1 drivers come through like Lewis Hamilton, Alex Albon, Kevin Magnussen & Lando Norris. Plus five current Formula E drivers – Sérgio Sette Câmara, Stoffel Vandoorne, Nyck de Vries, Oliver Turvey, & Oliver Rowland.

Q: So can’t they just pull from those experienced Formula E drivers?

A: While it would be a smart (safe?) move considering next season will be a brand new generation of cars. Even going with Vandoorne and former Formula E driver Felix Rosenqvist. You get experience as they get their barrings in a new series. However, they seemed focused on a brand new driver team.

Q: Does McLaren have any F2 or F3 drivers to keep in mind for future roles on any of these three teams? 

A: No. The only current driver in the program is 13-year-old Ugo Ugochukwu who currently competes in the F4 British Championship. So F3 is next up in his development and not a threat for any of these seats for several years to come.

Q: Who even has the Superlicense points to drive in F1? 

A: Alex Palou already has the 40 Superlicense points needed to compete in F1 due to his winning of the IndyCar Series championship, which awarded him those 40 points. Pato O’Ward currently has 30 points and can achieve the coveted 40 with a finish of fourth place or better in the IndyCar Series championship this season.

Q: Okay, let’s cut to the chase, what is your predicted McLaren lineup for all three series in 2023? 

A: Perhaps not the big change as you might expect, but the IndyCar lineup has a new look and the Formula E driver pair is brand new.

  • Formula 1: Lando Norris & Daniel Ricciardo
  • IndyCar: Pato O’Ward, Alexander Rossi, & Alex Palou
  • Formula E: Felix Rosenqvist & Sergio Sette Camara

Q: And finally, if there is a big shake-up for 2024 how might it look? 

A: Ricciardo & Palou swap series, with O’Ward waiting in the wings, while the Formula E drivers remain unless Sette Camara fails to deliver.

  • Formula 1: Lando Norris & Alex Palou
  • IndyCar: Pato O’Ward, Alexander Rossi, & Daniel Ricciardo
  • Formula E: Felix Rosenqvist & Sergio Sette Camara

Stay tuned for further McLaren driver lineup confirmations as we approach the 2023 season.