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Zak Brown

McLaren boss: Red Bull have 'ruined' a few great drivers

After Red Bull previously let McLaren's IndyCar driver Pato O'Ward go from their programme, Zak Brown has criticised the Austrian team for what he deems a "brutal" approach.

O'Ward Red Bull
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To news overview © Getty Images/Red Bull Contentpool

McLaren boss Zak Brown believes that Red Bull have "ruined" a few good drivers by letting them go too soon.

IndyCar driver Pato O'Ward is amongst those to have previously been a part of the Red Bull Junior Team, but the Mexican was dropped just six months after being signed to the programme in 2019.

He went on to race for Arrow McLaren SP in the 2020 IndyCar season, and has remained with the team since.

O'Ward was also given an opportunity to test an F1 car for McLaren at the 2021 end-of-season test, and Brown has previously said that he hopes to give the driver some FP1 outings in 2022.

Brown: Red Bull are "a bit brutal"

Brown is surprised that Red Bull let O'Ward go, and thinks that this highlights what he deems to be a "brutal" approach to how the team handle junior drivers.

"He definitely slipped through the cracks," Brown is quoted by The Race.

"I think Red Bull, while he was there, they only gave him about three races [in F2 and Super Formula]. But if you look at Red Bull's history other than Max [Verstappen], they have let a handful of great drivers slip through their hands.

"I think they've ruined a few that I think had it, but weren't given enough opportunity. But they won the championship last year, we didn't, so I can't say they don't know what they’re doing.

"But they’re a bit brutal. Carlos [Sainz] is a great example. Daniel [Ricciardo] had already proven how good he was but he chose to leave.

"[Sebastian] Vettel left. Max is a great story and someone that they found. [Alex] Albon, [Pierre] Gasly. Gasly looks like a hell of a driver.

"They move through a lot of drivers."

What are O'Ward's future prospects for F1?

In terms of O'Ward's likelihood of reaching Formula 1, Brown admits that there is not going to be a seat opening up in F1 soon, and he is in no rush to push the Mexican on to another category.

"Now in F1, for the first time, you're allowed to test last year's car because of how big the rule change is, so we want to have a test programme for young drivers like we used to have in the past, so having Pato in the family is natural," the McLaren CEO explained.

"Right now we don't have any seats available. Lando [Norris] is under a very long-term contract. So that seat's done. Daniel, we have another couple of years with. So there is no imminent seat available.

"Other than that, I'm not a believer that you have to be 18 to enter Formula 1. Some people believe, okay, [if you're] 22, you're getting old. I don't think that's case at all.

"I think [it makes sense] to just get Pato some seat time because you never know, a driver gets injured or gets COVID, stranger things have happened. But what we won't do is compromise the IndyCar team at all.

"I would never take Pato out of IndyCar to go into F1 without having a great solution. IndyCar is as important, as is Extreme E, as is Formula 1, to being competitive. So this is not a training ground for Formula 1."

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