2021 IndyCar champion Alex Palou is set to receive his Formula 1 testing debut with McLaren this week at Barcelona, although Colton Herta will not be involved. Under the Testing Previous Cars (TPC) programme, teams are now allowed to run cars from 2021 in private test sessions as they are substantially different to their '22 cousins. Earlier in the year, McLaren ran Andretti Autosport star Herta at Portimao to evaluate him, with O'Ward getting a run out in the 2021 post-season test in Abu Dhabi. The team are set to take the MCL33 to the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya for a three day test, with Chip Ganassi driver Palou and O'Ward - who races for Arrow McLaren SP- set to strap themselves in. It is the first time that the 2021 series champion Palou will strap himself into F1 machinery, but Herta, long-tipped to become America's first full-time F1 driver since Scott Speed and first since Alexander Rossi in 2015, will not be present.
No Herta at McLaren test
Herta is currently a target for AlphaTauri, but does not hold enough superlicence points to qualify for one. Red Bull driver boss Helmut Marko wants Herta to fill the vacant spot left by Pierre Gasly, should he depart the team to join Alpine. However, Herta's 32 points fall below the required 40 to be granted a superlicence - although he is still able to drive F1 machinery in private tests and in FP1 sessions - where a special licence is granted. Teams and the FIA are against awarding him one on dispensation grounds as they believe it would damage the system built up since the rules were updated. Palou announced earlier on Wednesday that he is to stay with the Ganassi IndyCar operation in 2023, but will be granted opportunities to test for the McLaren F1 team
Pato O’Ward and Alex Palou are taking part in a closed test in the MCL35M at Barcelona this week with our Testing of Previous Cars programme. pic.twitter.com/Sde5QtPyQS — McLaren (@McLarenF1) September 14, 2022