McLaren's bold pursuit of Australian F1 hopeful Oscar Piastri could be showing signs of backfiring, after the circus surrounding the team was described as 'laughable' by one of its IndyCar drivers.
Though the team is best known as an F1 mainstay, under the leadership of team boss Zak Brown it has ventured into American open wheel racing with the Arrow McLaren outfit.
Several IndyCar drivers have particpated in F1 tests as McLaren look to America for the next F1 superstar - however the pursuit of Piastri has sidelined those ambitions for now.
Piastri, who won F3 and F2 titles in back to back seasons with the backing of McLaren rivals Alpine, turned his back on the French manufacturer despite a coveted seat seemingly becoming available thanks to the sudden departure of Fernando Alonso.
His public statement declaring he would not be driving for Alpine in 2023 lead to him being linked to McLaren for next season, amid countryman Daniel Ricciardo's continued struggles with the team.
McLaren's only option for opening up a race seat for Piastri would be buying Ricciardo out of his contract, a proposition which could set the team back as much as $21 million.
Caught up in all this are IndyCar drivers O'Ward, Colton Herta and Alex Palou, all of whom boast deals with F1 promises kept within.
While none have come anywhere close to being guaranteed a race seat, O'Ward commented that the saga had come as a disappointment to IndyCar's F1 hopefuls.
“It’s not good for me to have that illusion. It’s a dream that’s very far away, because although I’m racing at a very high level, it’s still not enough to convince them,” O’Ward told ESPN.
“There are many things that come into play that are beyond me.
“I found it laughable. I saw it and I laughed.
“The same prize has been put in front of many other drivers by Brown. In the end, there is only one seat and not five.”
McLaren F1 saga with Ricciardo and Piastri far from over
McLaren have not commented on a story that has gripped Formula One since the start of the August break.
Multiple sources have said that Piastri has been lined up to replace the under-performing Ricciardo, however.
That could ultimately involve McLaren paying Ricciardo not to race for them.
The 33-year-old was signed from Renault at the end of 2020 but, apart from winning last year's Italian Grand Prix against the odds, has failed to live up to expectations at the former champions.
This season he has scored a mere 19 points, with a highest position of sixth, compared with teammate Lando Norris's 76 from 13 races.
Racingnews365.com reported that Piastri signed a contract with McLaren at the Hungarian Grand Prix and the team then lodged it with the sport's Contract Recognition Board.
Alpine, who have invested heavily in Piastri as reserve driver, announced the Australian as their driver on Tuesday, only for him to take to social media to contradict them.
"I understand that, without my agreement, Alpine F1 have put out a press release late this afternoon that I am driving for them next year," he said in a statement that promptly went viral.
"This is wrong and I have not signed a contract with Alpine for 2023. I will not be driving for Alpine next year."
Cue several days of intrigue as to the roles the two Australians might or might not play in Formula One next year.
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