Home Featured How Pourchaire’s IndyCar debut with McLaren came about

How Pourchaire’s IndyCar debut with McLaren came about

by Ida Wood

Photo: Sauber Group

Theo Pourchaire has shunned his Formula 1 reserve driver duties for Kick Sauber this weekend to join its rival McLaren in IndyCar, in a move orchestrated by the two teams.

It was announced on Thursday that the reigning Formula 2 champion would be making his IndyCar debut in the Long Beach Grand Prix as a substitute for the injured David Malukas.

The 20-year-old Frenchman had already been in Indianapolis, where McLaren’s IndyCar base is, for 10 days and that had prompted speculation in the series since his F1 role would have required him to be at the Chinese Grand Prix this weekend.

Before getting in his car for the first practice session in Long Beach, Pourchaire spoke to media including Formula Scout about how his debut had arisen since he is already dovetailing F1 work with racing in fellow top-level series Super Formula.

“IndyCar is one of the best motorsport categories. It’s a very quick car, a lot bigger teams than F2. Three cars per teams, so many more engineers, mechanics. It’s very professional. It looks amazing,” he said enthusastically.

“Of course F1 is a dream for all the racing drivers in the world. But driving IndyCar, there’s not many people who can drive in IndyCar already, who can drive for McLaren in IndyCar. So I’m smiling every day because it’s an amazing opportunity and I would love to drive of course in IndyCar in many more races in my career.”

Pourchaire has been tied to Sauber since 2019, when he joined its academy. Although he was hoping the team would give him an F1 seat this year after meeting its targets in F2, he claims he is “really happy” with his reserve driver role since it still could lead to making his F1 debut in 2024 just like his surprise IndyCar call-up.

“I think [McLaren CEO] Zak Brown contacted Andreas Seidl [his Sauber counterpart], and then they contacted me to give me the opportunity to drive,” he added. “So thanks to Sauber as well for letting me drive. It’s good from them.”

Pourchaire says that when “Sauber contacted me” the team said “McLaren wanted me to drive for the next two races”. Whether Malukas will be back for next week’s round at Barber Motorsports Park is yet to be confirmed, and there are no further F1 or SF responsibilities for Pourchaire to prioritise until May.

It is likely however that the decision has already been made privately, unless Malukas’s recovery is accelerating, since McLaren had to make the decision on his Long Beach replacement “two weeks ago, two-and-a-half weeks ago” according to Pourchaire.

“I was in France, doing nothing actually. Just some physical preparation for my next SF race. I received the call, and it was an amazing news. Then I booked the flight straight to Indianapolis, and then I worked with the team. So it’s been a last-minute call, but it’s okay. It’s even better like this. I love it. It was an amazing surprise.”