McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown says he has been “very disappointed” in Alex Palou’s conduct amid an impending legal dispute with the IndyCar points leader.
Palou appeared set to join McLaren’s IndyCar team for 2023 but was taken to court by present employers Chip Ganassi Racing.
A resolution was reached in which Palou remained with Ganassi for 2023 in IndyCar but also joined McLaren’s Formula 1 team in a test capacity.
Palou participated in practice at last year’s United States Grand Prix, has tested its 2021-spec F1 car, and was appointed as a reserve driver for the races in which he had no IndyCar clashes.
Palou was expected to switch to Arrow McLaren for the 2024 IndyCar season but it was revealed earlier this month that the Spaniard instead intends to stay at Ganassi.
“Alex informed us that he has no intention of honoring his contract with us in IndyCar or in Formula 1,” said Brown at the Dutch Grand Prix. “We have a contract, so it’s now in the legal process we filed in London courts last week against him both as a person and his business entity, and we’ll just let the legal proceedings carry the situation forward.”
Brown expanded that he found the situation “very disappointing” on a personal level as “we had a very good relationship.
“He hasn’t personally communicated with me about it, which is rather disappointing, given all that we’ve done for him and the opportunities that we have provided,” said Brown.
“I don’t think his decision has anything to do with McLaren per se, our relationship was very strong, it’s disappointing how it’s been handled on a personal level. I think all our relationships with our drivers are something McLaren take very seriously, I think we do a good job of creating a family environment for our drivers, so to be let down, especially in that manner, is pretty disappointing.”
Brown intimated that Arrow McLaren IndyCar racer Pato O’Ward – who took part in FP1 in last year’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – could participate in a practice session this year, most likely again in Abu Dhabi.
It is understood that both AlphaTauri and Williams were tentatively linked with Palou for 2024 but that the Spaniard was not a high priority for either team.
Nevertheless Palou’s severing of his connection to a Formula 1 team via McLaren has effectively ended his hopes of making a full-time switch. McLaren has Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri on long-term deals—and is happy with the performance of both—but Brown pointed out that even an affiliation with a Formula 1 team can lead to unexpected opportunities.
“I have no idea what’s going through his mind because I’ve not spoken with him,” said Brown. “But things move fast in Formula 1: drivers can break their wrist in an instance so I think if you want to do F1 you need to kind of hang around the hoop and see what opportunities provide.”
Brown made that point in reference to Daniel Ricciardo’s hand injury, which has led to Liam Lawson making his debut at Zandvoort, and also singled out Nyck de Vries getting a full-time chance with AlphaTauri for 2023 (albeit terminated after just 10 races) after his outing for Williams at Monza last year.
“I don’t know what’s in his (Palou’s) mind, but hanging around the hoop, and being in an F1 environment, to me, seems to give you the best opportunity to become a Formula 1 driver in whatever team that might be,” said Brown.