Can O'Ward succeed where Ticktum failed?

Rachit Thukral

in the face of his declining title prospects in Formula 3.

was delivering on-track, whatever happened off it mattered little.

However, once his results started to falter, it was forced into a rethink. Ticktum had been struggling in his first full season in Super Formula, despite having accumulated sufficient experience from two previous race outings and a full pre-season testing programme.

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appears to have been simply too hard to digest for the top brass at Red Bull.

There were also murmurs about Ticktum resorting to blaming others when results failed to materialise, and he publicly questioned whether his chassis was damaged because he couldn’t fathom “why I am a second off my teammate.”

Dan Ticktum, Red Bull Racing

Dan Ticktum, Red Bull Racing Mark Sutton / Sutton Images

Mark Sutton / Sutton Images

, another racer it has put its faith in.

has gone from virtual unknown to being on the brink of a grand prix seat on the back of two impressive years in the US motor racing scene -  including an Indy Lights crown - and now he has been tasked with replicating that success on the other side of the Pacific.

It certainly won’t be an easy task as the Mexican arrives in Japan with zero mileage, but Red Bull has ensured he has the right machinery at his disposal to maximise his talent.

.

“It was going to be very hard to just jump in and be quick and be fighting up front right after that. 

“But in this case, the team is a top team and the tyre is a bit more similar to what I’m used to, to what I’ve driven before.”

He added: “With the Pirelli I went into qualifying not even knowing the softer tyre and having maybe like five flyers on hardest of the two.

“So it was very hard to get up to pace so fast. But I think we did quite okay. But in Super Formula there is [a] bit more of a chance to adapt because you can push the car a bit more continuously on the tyre.”

, who after a subdued first couple of races shot to championship contention with an impressive mid-season turnaround - and with the same team.

“I’m hoping the adaptation will be a bit quicker [than F2],” O'Ward said. “And I want to be fighting up the front from the very first weekend.

"I think it’s hiding nothing that I want to be winning, I want to be competing at the front. I want to be fighting for the top, and giving the performances that I should be giving.”

Patricio O'Ward, MP Motorsport

Patricio O'Ward, MP Motorsport FIA Formula 2

FIA Formula 2

Ideally, Red Bull would have liked to fast-track O’Ward to F1 as early as 2020, but a lack of clarity regarding his superlicense points may have put such ambitions on hold.

O’Ward may not receive the 15 points for winning last year’s Indy Lights title as the series did not meet the minimum requirement for 12 cars at all races, and there are question marks over whether his IMSA Prototype Challenge class title counts.

F1 seat the following year.

“I don’t really know what’s going to be in the future for me,” he said. “For now I want to perform in Super Formula, I want to do the best I can. 

“If [I'm] not in Formula 1 by next year then I think it would be a good idea or a good thing to stay in Super Formula and just continue learning more and gain more and more experience with the quickest car available to drive that’s not a Formula 1 car.”

O’Ward certainly has the raw pace to make his way all the way to F1, having particularly impressed Trevor Carlin - the man who played a key role in the Mexican getting a Red Bull contract.

However, there were never any doubts about Ticktum’s speed either and yet he failed miserably in Super Formula to the point he had to be ousted mid-season.

O’Ward will be keen on avoiding the mistakes his predecessor did as he tries to cash in on a surprise opportunity to become a grand prix driver.

Dan Ticktum, Team Mugen

Dan Ticktum, Team Mugen Masahide Kamio

Masahide Kamio