“Fantastic year,” says O’Ward – but he’s still disappointed
O’Ward qualified sixth and finished fifth at the Firestone Grand Prix in Monterey, but championship leader Alex Palou de Ganassi qualified fourth and finished second. The result left O’Ward behind by 35 points heading into the season finale next Sunday in Long Beach.
Therefore, even if O’Ward took all the bonus points and won the race, Palou would only have to finish 11e to win the 2021 IndyCar Championship.
Asked by Motorsport.com if he could still consider this year a success due to a steady podium in 2020 to break through with two wins and a real title fight throughout the year, O’Ward replied. : “Yeah, I think we’ve made a significant leap in fair execution.
” But we are not there yet. We’re not exactly where Ganassi is because these guys have three cars in the top five in the championship. If you ask me which championship is going to lose, it’s them.
“We are here as outsiders. This is the first time that we have really fought for a championship of this magnitude, with so much competitiveness. I mean, I don’t think it’s ever been so stacked. We face champions on several occasions.
“So I think it’s been a fantastic year, I have to say. I mean, I’m very proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish. Really proud of the way we grew up. But we are not there yet. We have to keep pushing and we have to keep improving.
“I think when we find a little more than we need it should put us in the running for more wins just more frequently.”
Later he added: “I think we started the year very strong. I don’t feel like we’ve had this weekend where we’re at, like, we’ve got the thing to gain. I didn’t have that feeling I had in Detroit, Barber, Texas. I mean, we had great cars. We didn’t have superior mega cars, but we did have good cars. Even before the race I knew I could win.
“Like I said, it’s so difficult. You have to take advantage of every weekend that you have because they are rare.
“All I’m asking is I just want to be on par with the guys I fight with in Long Beach. I know I can take care of it from there. Whenever we don’t have the beat, there’s not much I can do.
Reflecting on his race at Laguna Seca, O’Ward said the car had never been a Palou threshing machine and that he considered it a “miracle” to have reclaimed fifth place.
“I’m like disappointed / happy,” he said. “Happy because I think we did a miracle with the package we had this weekend. We had nothing at all. I don’t know how I did a Fast 6 in qualifying, to be fair enough. I think that put us in a great position to start.
“We took a risk. We started with blacks because it’s our worst tire for the whole year. But the preferred tire was new. We only had one set of new reds, so we had to use three blacks, a new red. It was our race.
“We did everything we could. I fought like hell. So, I mean, we’re kind of still alive in the championship. I know there is a lot that can work in our favor or against us in Long Beach. What we can try to do is just go out there and try to win and we’ll see where everything else falls, I guess.
“If you see our practice and warm-up I don’t think we did better than 16th. I think it just shows that for some reason we were really struggling to find the rhythm. So a fifth I think is pretty fantastic for us this weekend.
“With the way we started the weekend and with fifth place right now, if you were to tell me after practice 1, ‘You’re going to win fifth’, I would be ‘Give it to me!’ That’s the absolute maximum we had. This weekend. “
Regarding a third appearance at Arrow McLaren SP alongside O’Ward and Felix Rosenqvist in 2022, Zak Brown told Motorsport.com on Saturday that it will likely take place at Indy and some races throughout the year. When asked if this would help move AMSP to the Ganassi standard, O’Ward seemed elusive.
“Honestly for me, I always focus on my business,” he said. “I mean, honestly, this weekend Felix and I were driving a very similar car for the first time. But generally I’m on one end of the spectrum compared to any other teammate I’ve had, and they’re on the other end of the spectrum in terms of what I like.
“I mean, we know we’re missing. The problem is, you can’t find it. It’s just the plain truth. We’re really trying to find these little extras, but we don’t seem to be finding them yet.
“I know we will. I have a lot of faith in the guys who do all the smart things on the team because I’m definitely not the one looking at the numbers. We will find it, but we are not there yet.