IndyCar champion Alex Palou has confirmed he has been shut off from certain pieces of pre-race Chip Ganassi Racing data in light of his team’s battle with McLaren for his future, but has played down the impact it has had on his pre-race preparation.
A tussle has commenced over Palou’s future after his current team Ganassi announced a contract extension for 2023 two weeks ago but just hours later Palou refuted a quote from him in that announcement and he and McLaren Racing announced he was going there next season.
He was as candid as he could be about the situation when he then faced the media at the Toronto race last weekend, and did the same at Iowa Speedway on Friday, where he admitted he’s lost access to some of his remote date sources since before Toronto.
“I still have the same kind of communication with my team, my three engineers and my crew and stuff,” Palou said.
“It’s true that I don’t have the access I had before to the data and all that stuff, like from home and stuff while I’m here.
“Which I understand. I mean, it’s normal. I think I would do the same if it was my team. So yeah, it changed. But I understand. It’s not that I’m out of meetings and stuff like that.
“It’s more like not having access to some documents, which you would do the same.
“So in terms of prep, I’ve been to the sim as I did before and I have my laptop here as I did before, so it’s not like they took their laptop away. So it’s all good.”
After the Toronto race last week, Felix Rosenqvist – a current driver at McLaren but someone whose IndyCar future likely depends on where Palou ends up – suggested it was possible that Palou may not race at all next season amid the ongoing fight between teams.
Asked by The Race if Palou had considered that or would be happy with that happening in order to achieve his long-term goal of joining McLaren, he replied: “No, obviously no, I think nobody would be happy.
“In my mind, it’s all about racing. And that’s what we are going to do next year.”
Toronto was an interesting weekend where Palou crashed in practice and qualified 22nd after grinding to a halt on track, but his comeback in the race to finish sixth was praised by his fellow competitors and his team-mates.
That was in stark contrast to before the race weekend when Scott Dixon criticised Palou’s handling of the contract situation.
Asked about those comments, Palou replied: “I mean, I totally understand or I totally accept all the opinions and I have no issues with that.
“And also the relationship with my team-mates, or the team itself, hasn’t changed.
“So I understand that everybody’s going to have different opinions and they’re going to have a way of seeing things differently than yours.
“But at the same time, they are not in the same position as you might be.”
Of course, Palou’s line pre-weekend in Toronto was that the rumours would not impact his driving on track, but a difficult build-up to the race did nothing to quash any opinions to the contrary.
Asked if he felt he needed to prove that it wasn’t impacting him negatively, Palou told The Race: “It didn’t come as easy as I wanted. But, yeah, it was important.
“Obviously, it was important to go from 22nd to get as much as we could. I wanted more but sixth was good, starting 22nd. And we didn’t do it with strategy and stuff. So it was good.
“We had some good moves. It made me feel really comfortable and really confident.
“Yeah, it made me show other drivers, other people that what I say [about his driving not being affected], it’s true, like, there’s a lot of stuff around and I understand and it’s all good.
“I’m not saying it shouldn’t be that way. But I’m 100% concentrated on racing, on-track things.”
Ultimately there’s no update from Palou on what might happen next. Ganassi claims it’s triggered the contract extension and he will stay put, but McLaren still claims to have signed him. Finding out who is right is not likely to be easy to resolve.
And even if Ganassi’s interpretation of the contractual situation is correct, Palou has made his ambitions to join McLaren clear and so the teams would have to come to an agreement. That won’t be easy as Chip Ganassi and Zak Brown are known not to be friends in the paddock.
Brown was reported to have not seen Palou’s Ganassi contract by the Associated Press earlier this week, but McLaren confirmed that is normal procedure and that it wouldn’t have access to any driver’s contract from another team.
Palou did little to clarify things further – unsurprisingly – when asked if he had a deadline for resolving the situation.
“Today would be good!” he replied.
“No, to be honest, no. And I have no idea if it’s going to take two days, two weeks or two months.”