Hours after Chip Ganassi Racing announced it had taken up its option on 2021 NTT IndyCar Series champion Alex Palou for 2023, McLaren Racing announced the 25-year-old Spaniard will switch to its team at the conclusion of the 2022 season.
In the McLaren release, no citation was made for where Palou will drive for the team; Arrow McLaren SP, its dedicated IndyCar program, was not mentioned, nor did the announcement come from an AMSP account.
Palou was also listed as a new member of McLaren’s TPC (testing of previous car) team which currently includes IndyCar rival Colton Herta and AMSP’s Pato O’Ward, who could be his new teammate once a determination is made on where Palou will drive next year.
“We have always said that we want the best talent at McLaren, and it’s exciting to be able to include Alex on that list,” said McLaren CEO Zak Brown. “I’m also looking forward to seeing him get behind the wheel of a Formula 1 car as part of our TPC program alongside Pato O’Ward and Colton Herta as we continue to build our driver talent. Alex is an incredibly talented driver who has won in every series he has raced in, and I’m happy to welcome him to the McLaren family.”
Palou echoed Brown’s comments.
“I’m extremely excited to join the driver roster for such an iconic team as McLaren,” he said. “I’m excited to be able to show what I can do behind the wheel of a Formula 1 car and looking at what doors that may open. I want to thank everyone at Chip Ganassi Racing for everything they have done for me.”
Shortly before the McLaren release was distributed, Palou made multiple postings on social media where he expressed his frustration with CGR.
“I have recently learned from the media that this afternoon, without my approval, Chip Ganassi Racing issued a press release announcing that I would be driving with CGR in 2023,” he wrote. “Even more surprising was that CGR’s release included a ‘quote’ which did not come from me. I did not approve that press release, and I did not author or approve that quote.
“As I have recently informed CGR, for personal reasons, I do not intend to continue with the team after 2022. This evening’s unfortunate events aside, I have great respect for the CGR team, and look forward to finishing this season strongly together.”
It is a common practice within motor racing press releases for teams to create quotes for owners, drivers, etc., while other teams rely on using quotes directly supplied by drivers, owners, etc. It’s unclear whether CGR’s alleged writing of Palou’s quote in its press release is standard practice or out of the norm for the team.
Beyond taking umbrage with CGR’s handling of his quote, Palou also mentioned his lack of intent to drive for the team once the current season is complete, but no mention was made regarding the contract extension the team says he signed for 2023.
It leaves two of IndyCar’s most formidable teams locked in a bizarre situation where both claim to have the same driver under contract with no immediate resolution on the horizon to quickly or easily determine where Palou will show up for work once the checkered flag waves over the championship on September 11 in Monterey.