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Palou Remaining ‘100 Per Cent’ Focused on IndyCar Despite McLaren Reserve Driver Role

3 Mins read
Credit: Joe Skibinski/NTT IndyCar Series

Álex Palou insists his primary focus in 2023 will be reclaiming the NTT IndyCar Series title with Chip Ganassi Racing despite the Spaniard being confirmed as a reserve driver for the McLaren F1 Team.

Palou, the 2021 IndyCar champion, was involved in a tug-of-war battle between Ganassi and the Arrow McLaren SP during the 2022 season over his services for 2023, with both teams laying claim to a legally-binding contract with the Spaniard.  The outcome saw him remain with Ganassi for a third consecutive season whilst also involving some running with McLaren in Formula 1 machinery.

He tested three times with McLaren in 2022, twice in the 2021 MCL35M before making his free practice debut with the team in the opening session of the United States Grand Prix driving the MCL36.

Despite the confirmation that Palou will be part of the test driver rota for McLaren in 2023, he insists that IndyCar remains his priority and it will only be weekends where he is not racing for Chip Ganassi that he would be available to take up his reserve driver duties in the FIA Formula 1 World Championship.

“I’m 100 per cent in IndyCar,” Palou said to Motorsport.com. “When we announced [the McLaren F1 reserve driver role] we made it clear that I was going to be a reserve driver only when it didn’t coincide with the IndyCar program.

“And I prefer it that way, to be honest. I don’t want to be in Indy 500 and thinking that a McLaren driver has a headache and maybe I have to go and replace him… I don’t want to be like that. I want to win races, I know that’s how I can be happier and get to do more things or for more years.

“If it doesn’t coincide with IndyCar, obviously instead of being at home I want to go and help the team on the track, and once the championship is over I’ll be with them. There are no tests planned with McLaren F1 yet, but I guess we will be talking more in the next few days.”

“I’m aware that F1 is the pinnacle of motorsport”

Looking ahead to his future, Palou admits racing in Formula 1 is still on his wish list, but he knows how difficult it is to get on the grid, particularly when McLaren already have a young driver pairing in Lando Norris and Oscar Piastri on their books for 2023 and beyond.

Palou says he does not think too much about the possibility of racing in what he call the ‘pinnacle of motorsport’, but it was in his best interests to get himself a test driver role just to get his name in the conversations about possible future opportunities.

“Not at all, I don’t think about it too much,” Palou said when asked if he was thinking too much about Formula 1. “Obviously I’m aware that F1 is the pinnacle of motorsport and that’s why I’ve decided to accept the possibility of joining a team, even if it’s as a test driver.

“But at the same time my job is to win races, and if I hadn’t won IndyCar I wouldn’t have been given the opportunity of F1, so I think the mentality I have to have is the same: to keep trying to win every race.

“I’m already happy that I’ve been able to try more than one day in Formula 1 and learn so much. And I’m going to learn more during 2023, but I’m not thinking to see if I get the opportunity.

“As my dad says, I’m in an amusement park every day, so if there’s a bigger one and I get a ticket to get in, I’m not going to say ‘No’… but I’m not thinking about that bigger theme park. Mine I think is nice enough already.

“I’m not just focused on that. And I haven’t thought about being in F1 in 2024. Obviously it would be great, but I see it as very difficult.”

IndyCar remains Álex Palou’s primary focus in 2023 – Credit: Joe Skibinski/NTT IndyCar Series
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Long time motorsport fanatic, covering Formula 1 and the occassional other series. Feel free to give him a follow on Twitter at @Paul11MSport.
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