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Brown: Montoya is “contributing to everybody” at Arrow McLaren SP

Juan Pablo Montoya’s presence at Arrow McLaren SP-Chevrolet for the Indianapolis 500 has helped boost the team as a whole, says McLaren CEO Zak Brown.

Juan Pablo Montoya, Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet

Phillip Abbott / Motorsport Images

The two-time 500 winner has qualified 24th on his return to the Brickyard behind the McLaren team’s full-timers Pato O’Ward and Felix Rosenqvist in 12th and 14th respectively.

While Montoya has enjoyed a solid car under him in race-trim level through the busy practice days, off-track, Brown says the Colombian has been a major asset for the team.

“I think we’ve got good racecars at Indy, I think Juan has been a great addition and he’s been a big contributor,” said Brown. “Some of the feedback that I’ve had from the team is that Juan’s feedback is very good and is contributing to everybody.

“Juan might portray himself as if he’s there for he and himself only, but he’s actually been a really good team player.”

Juan Pablo Montoya, Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet

Juan Pablo Montoya, Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet

Photo by: Barry Cantrell / Motorsport Images

While people have drawn comparisons between O’Ward and the young Montoya, the 45-year-old is a sage adviser at the Arrow McLaren SP team, according to Brown.

“I think our car can be fast but a bit on-edge,” he said. “Pato is used to it so he drives around it, where Juan and Felix, who has longer experience in motor racing, both felt that the car was there over a lap, but was tricky to drive.

“So where Pato is putting the lap time in and is comfortable in the car – ‘It is what it is and I’m going to put down laptimes’ – Juan Pablo has come in and he knows exactly what he wants and doesn’t want, and doesn’t waffle much on his opinion.

"And I think that’s exactly one of the reasons why we wanted him around. One, we think he’s very capable of winning the Indianapolis 500, but also you’ve got Pato who’s very young and Felix who isn’t that much more experienced in IndyCar…

“Juan Pablo quickly sharing his views on what the car should and shouldn’t be doing, I think, is contributing to everybody. That was the same thing when Fernando was there last year, even though he didn’t have a good run. It was ‘Wait til you see how a guy like Fernando operates, how he debriefs. He’s at the track early, he leaves late, and his attention to detail.’

“I think those are some of the things that younger drivers… they kind of assume that someone like Fernando just relies on his talent. But whether it’s Michael Schumacher or Alonso – and I’m sure Scott Dixon is the same – the attention to detail that they spend going into a race weekend is something I expect is good learning for Pato and Felix.”

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Meanwhile, Brown says he’s happy with the team’s progress this year, given that O’Ward has had a pole and his breakthrough win, but in response to being “kinda nowhere” in the Grand Prix of Indianapolis on the IMS road course, he remarked, “I don’t like that lack of consistency especially because in testing we were so strong.”

That said, there are two reasons he doesn’t worry over O’Ward being hired by a rival team – one is a watertight contract, and the second is Arrow McLaren SP’s aim to be one of the ‘destination’ teams along with Penske, Ganassi and Andretti.

“We’ve got good competition, so we’ve got Pato and Felix locked down for a while so it starts with ‘Don’t leave any gaps in the contract!’” said Brown.

“That being said, you’ve got to create an environment where a driver wouldn’t want to go, and I’d like to think with the opportunities that Arrow McLaren SP has and the connection back to Formula 1, that while we haven’t got the results of those other teams yet, we are elevating ourselves to be of that stature.

“So we can create an environment where not only should we be paying attention to those three teams, those three teams should be paying attention to us.”

Patricio O'Ward, Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet

Patricio O'Ward, Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet

Photo by: Phillip Abbott / Motorsport Images

Brown said that despite granting O’Ward a Formula 1 test in Abu Dhabi at season’s end, the priority for the 22-year-old Mexican must be an IndyCar championship.

“Obviously he’s incredibly fast, he’s a great talent, on and off the track – I think he’s got a long career ahead of him. But I don’t want him to be distracted. I know we’re going to be testing him in a Formula 1 car at the end of the year…  but I’d like to continue see him doing what he’s doing and having a run at the championship this year.

"He clearly has the pace and the talent, but it’s very important to us to try and win the IndyCar championship. That’s what I want to keep everyone focused on.

Asked bluntly if IndyCar is big enough for O’Ward, Brown responded: “Absolutely, winning the IndyCar championship is no easy feat.

“Most racing drivers would like to have an opportunity in Formula 1 if they can get it, but I think winning the IndyCar championship is every bit as difficult as winning the Formula 1 World Championship.

"In fact some could argue it’s more difficult because there’s more drivers and teams that have the ability to win the championship. So I think that’s an awesome accomplishment that he’s laser-focused on.”

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