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McLaren admits Malukas injury “more serious than we thought”

Arrow McLaren’s team principal Gavin Ward remains reserved about discussing David Malukas’ future with the IndyCar team, with the severity of the injury being worse than originally feared.

David Malukas, Arrow McLaren Chevrolet

Photo by: Josh Tons / Motorsport Images

Malukas was brought in at the conclusion of the 2023 IndyCar season, signed to replace Felix Rosenqvist in the team’s No. 6 Chevrolet after the fallout from the Alex Palou contract drama.

But a mountain biking accident in February dealt injuries that led to surgery on the left wrist of Malukas, which has left him unavailable for race weekends or testing since.

Arrow McLaren has since leaned heavily on Callum Ilott, who is also contesting the FIA World Endurance Championship with Team Jota. Ilott has taken part in multiple tests with the team while also substituting for Malukas for St. Petersburg and the non-points event at The Thermal Club.

Due to a conflict with the WEC schedule, Ilott handed off the duties for Long Beach – a race Malukas was originally thought to be ready to return for – to reigning Formula 2 champion Theo Pourchaire.

Pourchaire said on Friday that he was contracted “to drive for the next two races, to replace David” which would also include next weekend’s round at Barber Motorsports Park. He did later backpedal to note that his role for the latter event is dependent on Malukas’ health.

In an exclusive roundtable interview on Saturday afternoon – in which only Autosport, the Associated Press, Indianapolis Star and NBC Sports were present – team chief Zak Brown and Ward provided the latest update on Malukas.

“The team has been very supportive of David, and it's been certainly an unfortunate situation,” Ward said. “More unfortunate is that his injuries are much more serious than we thought initially.

“So, a big part of our focus has been on trying to help him in every way we can on his recovery, but also, we've been spending an awful lot of time here to make sure we have competitive drivers in that No. 6 car.

“Unfortunately, it's just a lot of uncertainty right now. We've got Theo in there; he's doing a good job in difficult circumstances.”

Theo Pourchaire, Arrow McLaren Chevrolet

Theo Pourchaire, Arrow McLaren Chevrolet

Photo by: Josh Tons / Motorsport Images

Ward went on to note Ilott “did a good job” and how “the silver lining is some great talent” that he can call upon.

When asked about balancing the health of Malukas versus how to do what’s best for the future of the team, with the perception this setback could allow the team to move on, Ward said: “We're having to make difficult decisions and I think there's too much uncertainty to speculate.

“We're doing our best to try and take care of him. We got all the rehab and physio and support we can, but at the end of the day, we need to also look after the performance of the team.”

When further pressed to declare parting ways being a possibility, Ward stated: “We don’t know.”

Brown then confirmed that Malukas still has a cast on his arm and that the pins are expected to be taken out this week.

“The truth is the uncertainty,” conceded Ward. “Unfortunately, it's a significant injury with an unclear recovery right now. Can't really say yay or nay.”

Tony Kanaan, Arrow McLaren Chevrolet

Tony Kanaan, Arrow McLaren Chevrolet

Photo by: Michael L. Levitt / Motorsport Images

With uncertainty over Malukas for the month of May, Autosport inquired what the contingency plan would be; if that would include Ilott returning to run the Indy 500 or pulling Sporting Director Tony Kanaan out of retirement or calling on a veteran such as J.R. Hildebrand.

That was quickly followed by another outlet then chiming in on Kanaan’s role and how it aids what will be a four-car team with the addition of 2021 NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Larson, who is making his Indy 500 debut.

“There's that and Tony adds the value to all four cars by not being focused on himself, but he's certainly someone [to look at],” Brown said.

“I think we've got a lot of different scenarios that we're working through.”

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