Not many drivers can lay claim to winning their first ever single-seater motor race, but one young driver who can is Spanish teenager Alex Palou.
Driving in the EuroFormula Open championship in 2014, his season started in near perfect circumstances, taking pole position for race one at the legendary Nurburgring circuit, and converting that into a win in a very confident and competent style.
Speaking to The Checkered Flag back in July 2014, Palou was ecstatic to take his maiden win in his debut race.
“[It was] absolutely awesome, a dream came through,” said Palou. “I always asked myself: what about if I win my first race ever in openwheelers? And it happened! It gave a lot of strength to keep pushing even more.”
He was on course for a podium in race two as well, before a mechanical issue saw his Campos Racing entry ground to a halt just after half distance when running a competitive second to eventual winner and champion Sandy Stuvik, but the young Spaniard was very mature after his disappointment.
“You always get frustrated when you cant finish a race, but even retiring I felt very satisfied, I won the first race and I was running second after a good start, so I can’t be mad,” revealed Palou to TCF.
Only three drivers won races during 2014 in EuroFormula Open – Palou, Stuvik and Artur Janosz, and it is no surprise that it is these three that have made the step up into the GP3 Series in 2015 – Stuvik with Status Grand Prix, Janosz with Trident and Palou again with Campos Racing.
But whereas the Thai driver and the Polish driver were in their second seasons of the series, it is Palou’s performances that stand out, with the Spaniard taking two more wins (race two at the Hungaroring and the season finale at the Circuit de Catalunya) and eight more podiums. It was only a nightmare weekend in Monza, where through no fault of his own, he was unable to score any points in either race, which cost him second place in the championship.
Such was his performance in EuroFormula Open, Fortec Motorsports took a chance with Palou and placed him in their three-car line-up for the 2014 Grand Prix of Macau, and the youngest adapted superbly to the street circuit, and finished sixteenth.
He also earned a DTM Series test with the Audi squad at the Circuito de Jerez during the off-season for good measure, but decided to continue his pursuit of making it single-seater racing, deciding to stay on with the Campos Racing team as they make their GP3 Series debut in 2015, with the team having taken over the entry of Hilmer Motorsport. Palou was confirmed at the same time as Kuwaiti driver Zaid Ashkanani, with Team Principal Adrian Campos believing Palou could cut it in GP3 this season.
“We will make every effort to ensure we have a competitive package for them,” said Campos. “This new project in the GP3 Series is very promising, and it is going to be great to have both Alex and Zaid with us.
“Alex Palou already proved his worth during the collective tests held in the series in Abu Dhabi.”
Not even new Scuderia Toro Rosso recruit Max Verstappen won his first ever single-seater race, and it will be interesting to see how Alex Palou performs during the 2015 GP3 Series season. The young Spaniard has much to prove, but early indications are positive.
With Spain eager to find the next Fernando Alonso, Palou might just be what they have been searching for. It’s a big statement to make so early in his career, but keep an eye out for him, you might just end up being surprised.