McLaren hires two young drivers and sacks veteran

Arrow McLaren Schmidt Peterson has announced their drivers for the 2020 season in the NTT IndyCar Series.

They have decided to hire two young drivers, leaving no space for one of the veterans in the field.

Patricio O’Ward and Oliver Askew will be the two full season drivers for the 2020 season.

Mexican O’Ward did 7 Indycar races in 2019 for Carlin, before Red Bull signed him, and send him off to Japan for the Super Formula (previously known as Formula Nippon). The original plan for the 2018 Indy Lights Champion was to do a full season for the Harding Steinbrenner Racing, but they didn’t have the budget to run two cars, so they cancelled the contract even before the season started.

American Oliver Askew won the Indy Lights Championship in 2019, where he battled with Dutch driver Rinus VeeKay, but ended up top in the Championship and the fight for thee AMSP seat.

Patricio O’Ward & Oliver Askew
Photo: Arrow McLaren Schmidt Peterson

Those signings have resulted in no seat left for James Hinchcliffe. The Canadian did have a contract with the SPM team up to and including 2020, but their change to Chevrolet engines, wasn’t ideal with Hinchcliffe’s tight bonds to Honda. For the first few weeks after the announcement, everything was going smooth in public, but just five minutes before the big announcement of O’Ward and Askew, there was a small release from the team, announcing the departure of “Hinchtown”. That’s not a nice way to treat a driver, that has been on the team since 2015.

He survived a horrifying crash in the Indy 500 qualifying in 2015, where he wasn’t racing for the rest of the year. An exceptional comeback in 2016 at the same location, made him grab the Pole Position, before he hit another low point by not qualifying for the race in 2018, which made an end to his championship chances that year. 2019 was another bad season for him, where the team didn’t get big results for neither Hinchcliffe nor Marcus Ericsson, who made a swift departure to Chip Ganassi Racing for the upcoming season.

The official line is that Schmidt Peterson still runs the team, with the Arrow title sponsorship added in 2019, but Gil De Ferran and Zak Brown from McLaren have had more than just a bit of influence on the driver choices.

Fernando Alonso is still rumoured in an extra car for the Indy 500 2020, but that isn’t part of the announcement.

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