Alex Palou is one of a number of exciting prospects currently making their way through in motorsport. The seventeen year old Spaniard is in his first season of open wheel racing having stepped up from go-karting, and joined the Campos Racing team in this seasons EuroFormula Open championship. To the teenager’s delight, he took his maiden victory in the very first open wheel race he competed in, at the Nurburgring in May.
Palou admits he is excited about his first year of car racing, and feels he is learning all of the time. He appreciates the efforts of his Campos Racing team who have helped him adapt to the series.
“At the moment everything is very exciting, a lot different than Karting, in every meeting i discover new things,” said Palou to The Checkered Flag. “I am very lucky to be surrounded by such a experienced people, which helps me a lot to develop myself.
“Its awesome to work under a structure such as Campos Racing, the team really works as a big family, there is a maximum collaboration between every part of the team and everyone works very hard to have success. I feel so lucky.”
At the Nurburgring, Palou made a dream start to his season, taking pole position for Saturdays opening race, and then converting that to the win. He admitted that he had thought about winning his first ever race, but was shocked when it actually happened.
“[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 impressing in the Sunday race too, before a mechanical issue forced him to retire while running second on the road to eventual winner Sandy Stuvik of RP Motorsport. But the steady head on the young man’s shoulders meant the Spaniard could go away from the Nurburgring with his head held high.
“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,” said Palou about his Nurburgring race two retirement.
Moving on to rounds two and three, he took two third places at the Portimao circuit in Portugal despite taking time to get the car in the right place for him with regards to balance, and then followed the Portuguese round with a fourth and a second in Jerez, the first open wheel races in front of his home crowd.
“They were tough races, especially the two in Portimao where it took a while for us to find a good balance in the set-up,” reflected Palou. “In Jerez I felt good since the beginning, but always behind the two RP cars. They were not bad races even thinking of winning every race.
“[The RP Motorsport team] have shown [to be] very competitive since the beginning, it looks that at the moment they are one step over the field, always been easily placed in the first spots. We need to work harder than them to catch them up.”
Looking back over the first six races of his open wheel career, Palou feels satisfied about how they went, and his analysis after each race helps him work out where he needs to improve to get even quicker.
“At the moment I think I cant complain about how the first six races went. I feel satisfied, but when I finish every race I always see things to improve. [For example] I would say some of the qualifying sessions.
“It is a championship with very experienced drivers and some of them with experience in this championship, this makes it more interesting and helps me to improve as a driver.
“My main goal is to do good races, win as much as I can and always be able to [be in a position to] win. The only way to keep racing is to show everyone i can win races, that is my maximum ambition for this year.”
Despite an impressive start to his open wheel career, the Spaniard knows he will need to keep performing to progress to the next level. He knows how important 2014 is for himself, and thanks Adrian Campos for the opportunity to race for his team.
“For sure [2014 is] one of the most important years in my career,” says Palou. “The step I made to open wheel is thanks to the opportunity that Adrian Campos gave me. He found the budget to make this possible so I will keep racing depending on this year’s results.”
Just like many young drivers, Palou admits that Formula 1 is the ultimate ambition for his career, and hopes to emulate his fellow Spaniard and two-times Formula 1 champion Fernando Alonso by getting into F1.
“Yes, Formula 1 is the maximum in auto sport and is the goal for every driver, but to arrive there you need be a very competitive driver in every point. You also need to have an open way to it, because we all know that Formula one is a business. To arrive you need a lot of quality, but some times [that] is not enough.”
Palou races this weekend at the Hungaroring in Hungary, round four of the 2014 EuroFormula Open Championship, and he hopes to be able to continue his impressive start to his open wheel career. But if the start of that open wheel career of his is anything to go by, we should be hearing lots of good things about Alex Palou in the years to come.