Alex Palou (IndyCar Photo)

Confusion: Palou Bolts Ganassi For McLaren

MOORESVILLE, N.C. — Alex Palou is on his way to McLaren Racing, the team announced Tuesday evening.

The news came five hours after Chip Ganassi Racing announced it was exercising its option with Palou and issued a media statement that said he would be back with the team next year.

McLaren did not announce which series the 2021 NTT IndyCar Series champion will be competing.

Palou, who was linked to joining Arrow McLaren SP Racing in the days following this year’s 106th Indianapolis 500, disputed the initial rumor in June and indicated he was happy with Chip Ganassi Racing.

However, the 25-year-old Spaniard remained high on McLaren CEO Zak Brown’s wish list and that led to Tuesday night’s announcement.

“We have always said that we want the best talent at McLaren and it’s exciting to be able to include Alex on that list,” Brown said. “I’m also looking forward to seeing him get behind the wheel of a Formula 1 car as part of our Testing of Previous Cars program alongside Pato O’Ward and Colton Herta as we continue to build our driver talent.

“Alex is an incredibly talented driver who has won in every series he has raced in and I’m happy to welcome him to the McLaren family.”

Just two weeks ago, team owner Chip Ganassi said he expected his team to be “status quo” next season. That would have meant all four of the current drivers — Scott Dixon in the No. 9, Palou in the No. 10, Marcus Ericsson in the No. 8, Jimmie Johnson in the No. 48 and Tony Kanaan in an Indy 500 entry — would be racing in Ganassi Hondas in 2023.

Tuesday’s announcement means Brown and McLaren have raided Ganassi of one of his top young talents — a driver that could have anchored the team for seasons to come.

“I’m extremely excited to join the driver roster for such an iconic team as McLaren,” Palou said. “I’m excited to be able to show what I can do behind the wheel of a Formula 1 car and looking at what doors that may open. I want to thank everyone at Chip Ganassi Racing for everything they have done for me.”

Palou won three races and scored eight podiums in 2021 on his way to winning the title in just his second year in IndyCar. He became the first Spanish driver to win the NTT IndyCar Series championship in 2021.

His motorsport résumé also includes an impressive season in Super Formula in 2019, where he secured a win and finished third in the championship.

Palou will join McLaren following the conclusion of his 2022 IndyCar season. McLaren Racing, which previously announced the addition of Alexander Rossi to its operation, will confirm its full driver line-ups across all of its racing series in due course. Current IndyCar Series drivers Pato O’Ward and Felix Rosenqvist have also signed extensions with the organization.

Five hours before the McLaren announcement, Chip Ganassi Racing issued a release that said Palou would be back with the team in 2023.

“Chip Ganassi Racing announced today that the team has exercised its option to extend Alex Palou through the 2023 season,” the release said. “Palou won CGR’s 14th IndyCar championship in 2021, also becoming the first Spaniard to ever win the season title.

“Alex’s track record speaks for itself,” said Ganassi. “He’s a proven champion and one of the most formidable drivers in the world. We are very excited to continue working together.”
Palou is even quoted in the release.

“It’s a great feeling knowing I’ll be back with Chip Ganassi Racing next season,” said Palou in the CGR release. “The team welcomed me with open arms from day one and I’m excited to continue working with Chip, Mike Hull, the folks on the No. 10 NTT DATA car and everyone within the organization. The goals remain the same and we will continue to work relentlessly towards achieving them.”

However, Palou said he never issued the quote that was used in the Ganassi announcement.

At 7:14 p.m. ET, Palou wrote the following on Twitter:

“I have recently learned from the media that this afternoon, without my approval, Chip Ganassi Racing issued a press release announcing that I would be driving with CGR in 2023. Even more surprising was that CGR’s release included a quote which did not come from me.

“I did not approve that press release and I did not author or approve that quote. As I have recently informed CGR, for personal reasons, I do not intend to continue with the team after 2022.

“This evening’s unfortunate events aside, I have great respect for the CGR team and look forward to finishing this season strongly together.”

This has created a very interesting and muddled situation as all parties head to Toronto for this weekend’s Honda Indy Toronto. It’s the first time the street race has been held on the streets of Toronto since 2019. It was halted in 2020 and 2021 because of the COVID-19 Pandemic.