until Abu Dhabi Autonomous Racing League


F1 2025 clause revealed in latest Palou/McLaren court doc

by Jack Benyon
5 min read

In a new court document seen by The Race, Alex Palou claims he would be free to leave Chip Ganassi Racing to drive for McLaren if it offered him a full-time Formula 1 seat for 2025.

In answering McLaren’s request for more information - as part of the ongoing proceedings relating to McLaren's $30 million lawsuit against Palou - in a document dated June 12, Palou provides more detail on his own claim that his Ganassi contract wouldn’t be a barrier to him taking up a full-time F1 seat.

Palou and his lawyers also reject, as part of the same document, the notion that McLaren took adequate steps to find a driver McLaren engine supplier General Motors would define as ‘A-level’.

This is a sticking point because McLaren is claiming Palou is liable for the loss of payments McLaren would have received from its engine supplier Chevrolet's parent company GM for having Palou - an “A-level driver”, as opposed to his replacement David Malukas, who McLaren says GM does not view as being of that standard.

Palou’s reply also claims the signing of Malukas was rushed, that alternative drivers would have been available and that McLaren should prove that no other better options were on the market.

Here’s what we learned from this latest document and further details on where the case is up to.

The case so far

Alex Palou, Ganassi, IndyCar

McLaren is claiming over $30 million in damages from Palou after he signed a contract with McLaren but then elected not to move to the team and instead stayed with Chip Ganassi Racing in IndyCar.

McLaren replaced Palou with Malukas last year, so the purpose of the case has not been to extract Palou from Ganassi but to receive damages compensating for Palou’s decision not to join.

The case started in a UK commercial court in August last year.

After McLaren outlined its case for damages against Palou, his racing entity (ALPA) and Palou’s racing team in Eurocup-3 (as the beneficiary of McLaren’s signing on bonus for Palou), Palou's team admitted breach of contract but has fought back on areas McLaren say he should be liable for.

The areas of disagreement include McLaren’s claims that it was forced to pay current IndyCar driver Pato O’Ward a bigger salary in Palou’s absence, and that it missed out (due to Palou not coming on board) on what would've been a more lucrative contract from its sponsor NTT and got less money from General Motors for signing Malukas, deemed a lower-calibre driver by GM relative to Palou.

You can read more about those claims here and here

What does Theo Pourchaire have to do with this?

Theo Pourchaire, McLaren, IndyCar

McLaren asked Palou in its latest court submission whether he felt McLaren had taken reasonable steps to mitigate its loses in the GM payments, and, if not, what steps Palou believes McLaren should have taken.

In their response, Palou and his legal team state that McLaren is required to prove that no other 'A-level' drivers were available by August 2023, and outlines two courses of action McLaren could have taken to avoid signing Malukas and thus receiving lower GM payments.

Those were either for McLaren to have waited until September or further - to allow it to explore options including drivers being released from existing contractual commitments at that point or those who finished their seasons in other series - or to have “better discussed and negotiated” with its commercial partners to find a “mutually-agreeable” replacement.

Palou's team asserts that McLaren appeared to rush to “appoint someone it did not believe was an A-level driver without going through the normal pre-appointment process”.

It also uses the example of the team dropping Malukas recently - after he’d suffered a pre-season hand injury - and its hiring of Theo Pourchaire, who Palou's team claims is an 'A-level' driver, as further evidence that McLaren had “other available talent at the time, that it did not pursue”.

Palou would still race in F1 for McLaren

Alex Palou, McLaren, F1

As part of McLaren’s request for more information, it asked if Palou has been free to race in F1 full-time while under his Ganassi contract, and whether - if McLaren had asked Palou to race for it in F1 full-time - Palou would have agreed to do so.

On the first point, Palou and his team say he would have negotiated with Ganassi to try to make it happen. They also state that Palou “would have agreed (and still would agree) to drive as a full-time Formula 1 driver” for McLaren, subject to reaching acceptable terms.

A new nugget of information courtesy of this document is Palou stating that, under the terms of his Ganassi contract, he is "entitled to take up an opportunity to drive as a full-time Formula 1 driver" for McLaren "in relation to the 2025 Formula 1 Racing Season onwards".

Palou and his team feel they would have been able to negotiate a termination of the Ganassi deal for 2024 if McLaren had made the offer for a full-time F1 drive from that season onwards, too.

It's not fully clear if Palou would also be able to race for other teams in F1 in 2025 and beyond under this purported clause.

A date for the court hearing?

Theo Pourchaire, McLaren, IndyCar

There is no date for a hearing in court yet, but we do have a better idea of the timeline for some form of resolution - and we know the hearing would take place in London.

The two parties are still being encouraged to try and resolve their differences - and mediation will be necessary before a trial.

But a document issued by the judge on the case - which outlines many details regarding aspects like the above-mentioned mediation, witnesses and how the overall process works - states that a trial would take place after October 1, 2025.

According to said document, McLaren was to have applied for a trial date by 4pm on June 7, 2024.

Palou at at Le Mans

Cadillac, Le Mans

Palou is racing in his first Le Mans 24 Hours this weekend with Cadillac, whose team is operated by Ganassi.

Palou’s #2 car qualified second (but started seventh due to a grid penalty from the previous World Endurance Championship round). He and his IndyCar team-mate Scott Dixon - in Cadillac #3, which which has started from second on the grid due to the #2's penalty - are both looking to become the first IndyCar champion to also win overall at Le Mans since AJ Foyt won the 1967 Le Mans with Dan Gurney in a Ford GT40.

As for other IndyCar presence at Le Mans, Romain Grosjean drives for Lamborghini, while Palou and Dixon's Ganassi team-mate Kyffin Simpson is racing in LMP2.

Colin Braun, Callum Ilott and Nolan Siegel - who have all started IndyCar races this year - are taking part in the 24-hour race, too.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Email
  • More Networks