TORONTO — IndyCar is coming off a solid event in Toronto, the first race the series has held outside the confines of the US border since before the COVID pandemic.
But, the race was shrouded by the situation revolving around Alex Palou.
Currently, Palou is the driver of the #10 car for Chip Ganassi Racing. However, it’s not known where Palou will be next year. Not for a lack of an announcement on the subject, but because of one too many announcements.
As many of you who follow IndyCar religiously already know, Palou has been claimed by two racing teams for the 2023 season. Ganassi announced first that they were exercising their option to extend Palou’s contract through the 2023 season, even attributing a quote of happiness from Palou about being back with the team.
A few hours later, Palou rebuked that press release saying that he did not approve the quote and that he would not return to Ganassi next year.
Enter McLaren Racing (note that it was not the IndyCar arm of the team Arrow Mclaren SP) who then announced that they had signed Palou to drive for them next year. In what capacity that would be is not clear.
Both teams are not budging on their claim to Palou, which means a court battle is likely on the horizon.
One of the drivers who may or may not be affected by this is current Arrow McLaren SP driver Felix Rosenqvist, who is signed on to stay with McLaren for the foreseeable future.
“By the sound of it, it doesn’t sound like Alex (Palou) has — I mean, I don’t know what’s going on there,” Rosenqvist said in Toronto. “At the moment it doesn’t sound like he’s going to race at all. Yeah, it’s up to lawyers and stuff.”
Still, it begs the question of where he will be racing next year. Rosenqvist has said before he feels he belongs in IndyCar, but some speculation has him transitioning to McLaren’s brand new Formula E effort.
“Honestly, it’s not my business at all,” Rosenqvist added. “I think honestly it hasn’t really changed anything. This whole deal went down months ago. I didn’t know all the details of it that I know now, but nothing has actually changed. I think if Zak was sure I was going to FE, he would have already said it. I’m going to take that chance. If there’s a chance for me to be here next year, I’m going to try to prove I can do that.”
His third-place finish in Toronto certainly gave fuel to that goal. He finished ahead of Pato O’Ward (11th), who is signed on to AMSP next season. He also beat Alexander Rossi (23rd), who will make the switch to AMSP’s second IndyCar seat next year. Rossi crashed out after bumping side-pods with Rosenqvist during the Toronto race.
A third IndyCar seat at AMSP is still up for grabs. If Palou is allowed to proceed to McLaren by the time this shakes out, it will be a big question to answer if either driver will head to Formula E or stay in IndyCar. Formula One is also a possibility for Palou.
Another monkey wrench to consider is Colton Herta, who is with Andretti Autosport in IndyCar, but was signed by McLaren earlier this year to a test/reserve driver deal with the team’s Formula One arm.
It is also quite possible that Palou will be forced back to Ganassi in 2023, which could result in a situation reminiscent of that of the late Justin Wilson who wanted out of Dale Coyne Racing before the 2014 season.