IndyCar rookie O'Ward eyes F1 after joining Red Bull programme

IndyCar rookie Patricio O'Ward is eyeing a quick jump to Formula One after being picked up by Red Bull's prestigious driver programme.

Mexican driver O'Ward, 20, won last year's Indy Lights feeder category and raced at the 2018 IndyCar finale at Sonoma, finishing ninth. He stepped up to the series full time this year with British team Carlin.

Having been confirmed as the latest addition to the academy that promoted four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel to the F1 grid, as well as grand prix winners Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen, O'Ward is excited about the opportunity and has hinted at a desire to test out F1 machinery.

"Things moved pretty fast," O'Ward told Autosport. "There might be a [Formula One] chance soon. I'm very proud of what I've managed, but I also want to thank Trevor Carlin because he opened the door to IndyCar for me, and that opened the door to F1.

"It's something very big, but I'm ready, I have faith in what I can do. We know that if I get the results, I have what it takes to reach F1, arrive and succeed. The idea is to go straight into F1."

Having gained Red Bull affiliation, there has been talk in the Barcelona paddock ahead of this weekend's Spanish Grand Prix about whether O'Ward could find himself driving a Toro Rosso at some point this year. It remains unclear whether he has enough superlicence points required for a full-time race seat, but he would be able to test this year if offered the chance by Red Bull's junior team. The last driver to move directly from IndyCar to Formula One coincidentally did so with the same team -- Sebastien Bourdais was Vettel's teammate in 2008.

Toro Rosso team boss Franz Tost said there is an obvious reason to give O'Ward a chance to excel in F1 given his heritage.

"We would be more than happy to have him in Toro Rosso, because this would increase the interest of [North] American fans for F1, which we need, because, as you know, [F1 owner] Liberty Media is pushing," Tost told Sky Sports. "To really increase the interest we need a national hero."

Red Bull also has British youngster Dan Ticktum waiting in the wings, and he will drive for the team at the post-Spanish Grand Prix test next week.