until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League


Brown claims Palou has backed out of McLaren switch

by Jack Benyon
4 min read

until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League

In a total turnaround, it looks like Alex Palou could remain at Chip Ganassi Racing in IndyCar for 2024 and snub what was once thought to be a near-certain switch to McLaren.

Since last year when Palou declared he was leaving Ganassi for McLaren, which eventually ended in a settlement where Palou stayed with Ganassi for the 2023 IndyCar season but agreed on a reserve Formula 1 driver role with McLaren – Palou has looked set to join McLaren’s IndyCar squad eventually.

Parts of Palou’s Ganassi contract became public from court documents last year, and it confirmed Palou has an exclusivity clause with Ganassi until September 1, 2023.

Palou himself has said he won’t announce what he is doing until after the season finale at Laguna Seca.

Multiple sources have indicated to The Race that Palou had a deal in place with McLaren, and that was backed up by a story ran by the Associated Press on Friday saying that Palou had now backtracked on that deal. AP claims to have obtained a letter sent by McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown to his team’s employees announcing this.

AP says the letter states Palou “has no intention of honouring his contract with our Arrow McLaren IndyCar team for the 2024 season and beyond”.

Gallagher Grand Prix Friday August 11 2023 Ref Image Without Watermark M89943

The Race’s sources indicated earlier this week that it was a possibility Palou could stay at Ganassi – after 12 months of reports indicating the opposite and talk of a Palou-McLaren contract to back it up – creating a new twist in the Palou affair.

Palou’s management firm Monaco Increase Management then confirmed the news on Saturday morning and implied they were parting company.

“Monaco Increase Management is bitterly disappointed to learn about Alex Palou’s decision to break an existing agreement with McLaren for 2024 and beyond,” it said in a statement.

“Together, we had built a relationship that we thought went beyond any contractual obligation and culminated in winning the 2021 IndyCar crown and tracing a path to F1 opportunities.

“Life goes on and we wish Alex all the best for his future achievements.”

It’s unclear how McLaren will respond if it does have a deal with Palou and he does not honour it.

Palou – who leads the IndyCar points by 84 for Ganassi – is due to take up his role as McLaren F1 reserve at the end of the IndyCar season and was expected to get free practice outings later this year before these latest developments. McLaren has also invested in a testing programme for Palou in an older-spec F1 car.

AP quotes another section of the letter: “We have paid him [Palou] a significant first payment toward his 2024 season in addition to the millions of dollars toward developing him in our Formula 1 testing program and in his reserve driver role with a potential drive in F1 in the future”.

Brown has issued a statement to The Race which reads: “I’m extremely disappointed that Alex Palou does not intend to honour his contractual obligations to race with us in IndyCar in 2024 and beyond.

“That is all I have to say on the topic for the time being.”

This news will cause a ripple effect that will tear through the IndyCar paddock’s silly season.

Alex Palou Big Machine Music City Grand Prix By Travis Hinkle Ref Image Without Watermark M89371

Palou has also drawn interest from AlphaTauri and Williams in Formula 1 – he claimed last week he had no Formula 1 offers at that time – but if one did arise this off-season, this entangled affair could grow even more complicated.

It could mean that McLaren has an IndyCar seat open for next season, and it will have to decide on its favourite option.

The team is fond of current driver Felix Rosenqvist and has repeatedly backed the Swede, but he has been inconsistent and has been outperformed by new signing Alexander Rossi this year.

Brown was extremely complimentary of Ganassi’s Marcus Ericsson in May and said he would be interested in signing him if he had a seat. Ericsson has been made a new offer by Ganassi recently but is still expected to join Andretti, so Brown would need to work fast to bag the 2022 Indy 500 champion.

There are plenty of other options on the market but they are likely to fall into place quickly with other teams.

Ganassi has Scott Dixon under contract, and has had positive talks with Marcus Armstrong over a potential full-time seat next year. It’s within the realms of possibility that it could persuade Ericsson to stay, too, although Andretti does appear to be his current likely destination.

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