SPEEDWAY — IndyCar series points leader Alex Palou’s contract situation, which has been a bone of contention in the IndyCar paddock for over a year, boiled over Saturday.
Late Friday, the Associated Press reported Palou, who is currently on the Chip Ganassi Racing team, “has no intention to honor” the contract he signed with Arrow McLaren for the 2024 season. Palou informed McLaren of his decision after Friday’s final IndyCar practice session, according to the AP.
Palou’s decision to go to Arrow McLaren was announced by Palou in July 2022. At the time, he announced his intention to leave CGR after the 2022 season, even though he was under contract through the 2023 season.
CGR challenged Palou’s contract-breaking attempt, suing him (with McLaren fronting Palou’s legal fees), before a settlement was mediated where Palou was a CGR driver in the IndyCar Series but would be a test driver with McLaren in Formula One in 2023.
Palou has indeed tested with McLaren, as recently as July at the Hungaroring in Hungary.
“Unfortunately, it now appears our belief, commitment, investment and trust in Alex was misplaced as it is not being reciprocated,” said Arrow McLaren CEO Zak Brown in a letter to his own team, acquired by the AP.
Palou has not announced his 2024 intentions. The 2021 IndyCar champion, and likely winner of the 2023 IndyCar title, could return to CGR. He could also go to Formula One, though there is no seat available that is known at this time. Palou said Thursday he has no F1 ride at this time.
Palou’s decision to back away from his McLaren commitment set off a firestorm within the racing community.
Palou’s own management, Monaco Increase Management, criticized Palou’s change of heart in a sharply worded Saturday press release.
“Monaco Increase Management is bitterly disappointed to learn about Alex Palou’s decision to break an existing agreement with McLaren for 2024 and beyond,” the statement said. “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.”
Ganassi himself, who has had a feud with Brown largely due to the Palou situation, released his own statement to the media Saturday.
“Anyone that knows me knows that I don’t make a habit of commenting about contract situations,” Ganassi said. “Subsequently, I have been quiet since Day 1 of this story, but now I feel I must respond. I grew up respecting the McLaren Team and their success. The new management does not get my same respect.
“Alex Palou has been a part of our team and under contract since the 2021 season. It is the interference of that contract from McLaren that began this process, and ironically they are now playing the victim. Simply stated, the position of McLaren IndyCar regarding our driver is inaccurate and wrong. He remains under contract with CGR.”
Palou had no comment on the situation after his seventh-place finish in the Gallagher Grand Prix. After the race, he had a 101-point lead over Gallagher Grand Prix winner Scott Dixon for the IndyCar points lead.