McLaren has initiated legal proceedings against current IndyCar points leader and its own Formula 1 reserve driver Alex Palou.
The move comes after Zak Brown informed his team last week – first reported by the Associated Press – stating that Palou had told him he would not be driving for McLaren next year.
Brown claimed that McLaren had paid Palou a part of his 2024 salary already and invested millions in his development via its F1 testing programme.
News that McLaren was now moving forward with legal action against Palou was first reported by the IndyStar on Friday.
In a statement then issued to The Race, Brown said: “We made a significant investment in Alex Palou, looking forward to racing with him in 2024.
“We’re placing our trust in the legal system to resolve this matter and will keep our comments at that.
“As a team, we’re turning our focus to the final races this season and on our plans for 2024, which we’ll announce once we’re ready.”
It’s the second team in two years to initiate legal proceedings against Palou after he claimed he was leaving current team Chip Ganassi Racing for McLaren last year just after Ganassi had announced he was staying. That was resolved out of court with Palou staying at Ganassi in IndyCar for 2023 and joining McLaren for F1 tests only, but with a widespread paddock expectation that he’d move to McLaren in IndyCar too in 2024.
The IndyStar report said McLaren Racing and its IndyCar team, which are two separate entities, have claimed against Palou and his racing entity, ALPA Racing USA LLC, in a UK commercial court.
Morgan Lewis and Bockius are representing McLaren.
The Indy Star said Roger Yasukawa – who is believed to be managing Palou after his split with Monaco Increase Management last week – declined to comment on the lawsuit.
Yasukawa has been a key advisor involved in Palou’s management since he raced in Super Formula in 2019. When Palou joined Monaco Increase Management last year, MIM claimed that Yasukawa had joined the organisation to work in IndyCar alongside Palou, and is listed on their website.
Coincidentally, it’s believed Yasukawa’s father worked for McLaren.
The IndyStar also claims the two suits, against Palou, and ALPA, were filed on August 16 and August 11 respectively, the latter being when Brown sent his letter informing the team Palou will not be joining.
What does this news tell us?
It felt like only a matter of time before this battle escalated in some way, shape or form.
Details are sparse at the moment, but the fact this is a Part 7 filing – used to claim for money only – is significant.
We can deduce from this that McLaren doesn’t appear to be trying to force Palou to join next year and race for its team at the moment.
This is the kind of filing you make if you wish to reclaim money you believe you are owed.
And of course Brown had included in his letter to his own team that Palou was the subject of millions of investment in the form of testing and a first payment of a salary for 2024, too.
Ganassi has claimed Palou is under contract with it, and as we know from its lawsuit with Palou last year, Palou’s original contract had an exclusivity clause lasting until September 2023, intended to stop him from negotiating with other teams until then.