Alex Palou reveals exactly why he betrayed McLaren

IndyCar driver Alex Palou has opened up about the next step in his career after shunning McLaren.

In the midst of a remarkable IndyCar season, Alex Palou found himself at a crossroads, questioning his original plan to leave Chip Ganassi Racing for a potential opportunity with Arrow McLaren. 

As he reflected on his journey, Palou shared his insights into the critical decision that ultimately shaped his career.

Palou’s season began with a bang, starting with the GMR Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 13 and culminating with the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio on July 2. 

During this period, he achieved an impressive feat, winning four out of five races, including a triumphant three-race streak in Detroit, Road America, and Mid-Ohio. 

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This dominating performance catapulted him to the top of the 2023 NTT IndyCar Series standings, where Scott Dixon was the only contender trailing by 74 points before the Grand Prix of Portland.

For Palou, the turning point came when he asked himself a crucial question prior to the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix at Nashville on August 6. 

With two championships in three years and a high-performing race team, he pondered, “How could he leave?” Palou shared his thoughts, saying, “There is no hiding if you look at my interviews until 2021, I would say I was not focused on F1 at all, and that was totally true.”

However, his perspective shifted after winning the championship at the age of 24. Palou considered the idea of exploring Formula One and potentially returning to IndyCar later in his career. 

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He recounted, “Then it changed. 

“The door opened a little bit with McLaren. 

“It was amazing. 

“I got to test old cars and then Practice 1 last year at COTA, and it was amazing. 

“The opportunity was great, but there was nothing else there of ‘You will have a car.'”

Despite this newfound interest in Formula One, Palou acknowledged the challenges he faced at 26, stating, “Maybe if I was 20, I would have waited, but I’m not 20. 

“I’m 26. 

“I don’t know of anyone who waited until 30 that got into Formula One.”

In Palou’s mind, leaving Chip Ganassi Racing to join Arrow McLaren in IndyCar didn’t make sense. 

While the latter team had the potential to contend for championships in the future, they had yet to secure a victory in 2023. 

Palou emphasised, “You don’t get a lot of opportunities over there [in F1]. 

“I would not trade my seat here for anything there. 

“In IndyCar, there are 27 cars, so that is double the cars.

“A lot more movement and a lot more opportunities here.”

Palou’s epiphany led to a significant change of heart. 

After initially agreeing to join McLaren in 2024, he informed McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown that he would not be making the leap. 

Brown, feeling betrayed, publicly disclosed the decision by sending a letter to both the McLaren Formula One team and the Arrow McLaren IndyCar team.

Reflecting on Brown’s decision to go public, Palou revealed, “I was expecting that. 

“I was expecting sooner rather than later that there was going to be some movement, for sure.” 

However, he refrained from delving into further details regarding his choice due to an ongoing lawsuit filed by McLaren against him in Commercial Court in the United Kingdom.

Palou expressed his desire to provide more information but was advised by his legal team to refrain from commenting until after the trial. 

He said, “I would love to just tell you exactly everything. 

“They said to say, ‘No comment.’ 

There is nothing I can say that is going to help me.”

Following these tumultuous events, Palou reunited with his agent, former IndyCar Series driver Roger Yasukawa, and severed ties with Monaco Increase Management (MIM), the company that had orchestrated his supposed F1 deal with McLaren. 

Palou confirmed that he had not spoken to Zak Brown or MIM since informing McLaren of his decision on August 11.

Palou’s relationship with Chip Ganassi Racing, despite past challenges, appears to be stronger than ever. 

While he acknowledges some ups and downs, he believes that it has naturally improved. 

Palou said, “Chip has never been bad with me personally. Lately, he has been very good. This year has been very good.”

After securing the championship in Portland, Palou refrained from revealing his contract extension with Chip Ganassi Racing. 

Instead, it was Chip Ganassi himself who confirmed the news to NBC’s Kevin Lee in victory lane.

As he celebrated his championship with his wife, Esther, and a friend in Portland, Palou enjoyed a rare drink. 

He also took a moment to honour his race strategist, Chip Ganassi Racing team manager Barry Wanser, who is recovering from cancer surgery in Indianapolis.

Palou’s journey continues as he participated in a full-field test day at WeatherTech Raceway at Laguna Seca. 

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This opportunity allows the team to experiment with new strategies and preparations for their championship defence in 2024.

Looking ahead, Palou remains focused on his career in IndyCar, with his Formula One dreams temporarily put on hold. 

As the IndyCar Series finale approaches, he anticipates a proper celebration when the checkered flag drops.