A stalled F1 project?
New twist in the Alex Palou saga and his contracts. IndyCar Series dominator Alex Palou has turned his back on his contract with McLaren and now looks set to sign a new deal with Chip Ganassi Racing for 2024.
This latest twist follows a long legal battle that began in 2022, when the Ganassi team took legal action against its own driver after he signed a contract with McLaren in the summer of 2022 to race from 2023 at McLaren Arrow. At the time, we criticized the propensity of Zak Brown, the CEO of McLaren, to multiply the pilots under contract.
A legal mediation between the two parties had led him to stay with Ganassi for this season, during which he seems certain to win his second championship, while having the possibility of being a McLaren reserve driver and making his first tests. in F1, with a view to arriving in 2024 or 2025, since the Indycar champion has never hidden his dream of one day arriving in the premier category.
Zak Brown’s Bitterness
The situation has visibly changed. McLaren’s F1 doors appear to be closed with the strong Norris-Piastri pair and Alex Palou has finally decided not to honor his contract with McLaren for 2024. In a statement, McLaren Racing managing director Zak Brown said: ” I am extremely disappointed that Alex Palou has no intention of honoring his contractual obligations to race with us in IndyCar in 2024 and beyond.”
In a letter sent to McLaren employees after final testing in Indianapolis on Friday night, first reported by The Associated Press, Brown wrote: “This is incredibly disappointing, given the commitment he has made. to us both directly and publicly and our significant investment in him based on that commitment. He also highlighted the “time, money and resources that were being prepared to welcome Alex to our team because we believed in him and looked forward to IndyCar victories with him”. We are of course talking about the time already devoted to Palou by McLaren in F1 and an advance on salary. Strange resemblance with Alpine who complained last year of having lost Oscar Piastri after making large investments in the Australian, ultimately benefiting…McLaren.
Palou had been an integral part of McLaren’s F1 TPC programme, most recently driving at the Hungaroring in June – alongside regular racing driver Oscar Piastri – after previous testing at the Red Bull Ring and Barcelona He also took part in Free Practice 1 of the United States Grand Prix last year and was present at the Miami Grand Prix in May as a reserve driver for McLaren.
Palou with Ganassi or another surprise?
For his part, Chip Ganassi took the opportunity to tackle the management of McLaren: “I grew up respecting the McLaren team and its successes. The new management does not get the same respect from me. Alex Palou is part of our team and has been under contract since the 2021 season. It was the interference of this contract by McLaren that started this process and, ironically, they are now playing the victim, criticizes the American. McLaren’s position regarding our driver is inaccurate and wrong; he remains under contract with CGR.”
It was also revealed that Palou had parted ways with her management company, Monaco Augmentation Management, who released their own statement saying they were “bitterly disappointed” with their decision.”Monaco Augmentation Management is bitterly disappointed to learn Alex Palou’s decision to sever an existing agreement with McLaren for 2024 and beyond.Together we had built a relationship which we believe went beyond any contractual obligation and culminated in winning the IndyCar crown 2021 and to pave the way for opportunities in F1.
MIM had been active in the F1 paddock representing Palou as his McLaren contract would have had a multi-million pound buyout until July 1, but he confirmed this week that he had not attracted any interest from other F1 teams.
All signs now point to Alex Palou having made the choice for stability with a multi-year renewal with Ganassi, a seven-figure salary that would likely make him the highest-paid driver on the show. Unless Red Bull approached him?