Europe's Top Young Driver Not in F1 Signs With McLaren IndyCar team

long beach, ca during the indycar acura grand prix of long beach in long beach, california photo by travis hinkle  ims photo
McLaren Just Signed Another Big Name for IndyCarTravis Hinkle

McLaren has announced the signing of 2023 Formula 2 champion and current Sauber Formula 1 reserve driver Theo Pourchare to its Arrow McLaren IndyCar program, where he will race for the remainder of the 2024 season minus the upcoming Indianapolis 500. The decision comes just over a week after the program dropped the injured David Malukas before he could run a single race for the team.

As the reigning F2 champion, Pourchaire is effectively the most qualified young driver not currently racing in F1. The 20-year-old Frenchman also won the German F4 championship, finished second in his debut season of FIA Formula 3, and secured a runner-up finish in his second of three F2 seasons.

Pourchaire started filling in at McLaren when initial fill-in driver Callum Ilott had a schedule conflict due to his FIA World Endurance Championship commitments with the Jota Porsche 963 program, making him an effective reserve to the reserve. He finished 11th on debut at Long Beach, impressing the team with his adjustment not just to the IndyCar chassis but to a street circuit unlike anything he experienced in Europe. He finished a disappointing 22nd in his follow-up race at Long Beach, but the performance over two weekends was enough to earn a longer opportunity with the Papaya-clad team.


While Pourchaire will not be running the Indianapolis 500 and the team's fill-in driver for the race has not yet been announced, he has already tested on an oval and plans to race in the year's remaining oval events. As there are all of zero oval races on the typical Formula 1 ladder, those races will mark a first in his young career.

The quick hire comes just 10 days after the team dropped David Malukas, who had seemingly been signed as a long-term part of the organization in the past offseason. Malukas, who was injured on a mountain bike in February, finished second with seven wins in the 2021 Indy Lights championship and secured eight top 10 IndyCar finishes over two seasons with the relatively uncompetitive Dale Coyne Racing. Malukas is now a free agent, making him both the favored replacement for any in-season driver change at any other team and a key player in any opportunities for the 2025 season.

When Pourchaire initially ran as a one-off driver at Long Beach, he told Road & Track that he first heard about the possibility just two and a half weeks before the race. Pourchaire added that it "would be a dream, to drive full time" in the series, including the oval races that have kept some drivers from the European ladder from considering the series in the past. At the same event, Zak Brown toldRoad & Track that the team was "hot on the driver market" even while Malukas was still under contracted and noted that the end of current driver Alexander Rossi's contract was coming up soon, too.

Dropping Malukas already opened at least one seat at McLaren in 2025, and the potential to let Alexander Rossi walk could open a second. That is good news for Pourchaire, who will not only be able to approach the remainder of the 2024 season as an extended audition but have the opportunity to do so with the confidence that Arrow McLaren has a real opportunity for him in the future.

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