CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Two people with direct knowledge of the situation tell The Associated Press that James Hinchcliffe has been released from the new Arrow McLaren SP Racing team. That’s despite repeated public assurances that the popular Canadian was not leaving the organization once McLaren came aboard.
Hinchcliffe learned Sunday he was being replaced by 2018 Indy Lights Champion Pato O’Ward and said his farewells at the team shop Monday, according to the two people. They spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because McLaren is not expected to formally announce its lineup of O’Ward and reigning Indy Lights champion Oliver Askew until Wednesday at the earliest.
McLaren had planned to run its own two-car IndyCar operation in 2020 until its failure to make the Indianapolis 500 with Fernando Alonso in May was too devastating a setback. The Formula One brand instead partnered with the existing team owned by Sam Schmidt and Ric Peterson and sponsored by Arrow.
That required the Schmidt group to move from Honda to Chevrolet, an immediate issue for Hinchcliffe because of his strong personal service agreements with Honda Canada. It led to constant speculation that Hinchcliffe would find an out in his contract and remain a Honda driver, but nearly all parties vehemently insisted he was going to driver under the McLaren banner.
Hinchcliffe’s ouster for O’Ward was first reported by Racer Magazine.