Indycar champ set for F1 debut

This weekend sees the premier category of American single seater racing head to Toronto for the 10th round of 17 schedule for this year’s Indycar championship. Unlike in Formula One, for the past 18 seasons the title race amongst the drivers has been decided at the final round of the year but this could all change depending on the result in Canada.

Alex Palou from Spain is set to change the course of Indycar history in recent memory as he leads the championship at present by a remarkable 100 points from New Zealand’s Scott Dixon a 6 times previous winner of the series.



Indycar champ out of contract

The Spanish driver had an acceptable but unremarkable junior career in European racing then moved to the US Indycar series in 2020 with Dale Clyne Racing, the Alphatauri of the field.

Having impressed top team owner Chip Ganassi Palou secured a top drive in his second season and repaid the favour by claiming the Indycar drivers’ championship, the first Spanish driver to do so.

Palou was then courted by McLaren’s Zak Brown which resulted in legal proceedings during the 2022 season which Chip Ganassi won retaining his driver for another year, yet Alex is still a reserve driver for McLaren F1. However, the runaway championship leader Palou is now out of contract for 2024 and all eyes on on how he will decide his future which will become apparent over the next two weeks.

Should Alex make the podium in Toronto his consistency would suggest he is line line for his seance drivers’ title in 3 years. Yet Palou has his eyes set upon Formula One.



Tsunoda on a knife edge

The door at McLaren may have closed for Palou since they recruited Oscar Piastri from under the nose of Alpine, yet there are plenty of admirers of his talent within the Formula One paddock.

This week Alphatauri parted company with Nyck de Vries who famously scored points on his F1 debut when he stood in for Williams’ stricken Alex Albon at the 2022 Italian Grand Prix.

De Vries was a scapegoat in the machinations of Red Bull’s hierarchical political manoeuvres to put pressure on Sergio Perez and eventually replace the Mexican driver presumably with Daniel Ricciardo.

Ex team boss Peter Windsor believes Palou is now in th frame to replace Ricciardo when he gets the call up to race alongside Max Verstappen in the senior squad. Alex is currently a reserve driver for the McLaren F1 team.

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Palou tough route to F1

“When Palou was the [Friday] driver of the McLaren in Austin last year, I said that of all the young drivers that had been given a chance in those two races by far and away the best-looking was Alex Palou,” Windsor revealed.

“I’ve always thought he’s a short-corner driver, he looked that way in Formula 3 when he was driving for Campos, and it was Adrian [Campos] we should be thanking for Palou’s career. I really rate him. I think he’s really good.”

AlphaTauri will use de Vries replacement Daniel Ricciardo to benchmark Yuki Tsunoda who is rated by many in the paddock though his results this season  question those opinions. Should the Australian quickly outperform his Japanese team mate then it will be curtains for Tsunoda whose driving style is rather Monte Carlo or bust.

AlphaTauri will then be in the market for another new driver for 2024.

The question for Palou is whether he would quit a series he is clearly dominating at present to race in Formula One for a team likely to finish the 2023 season at the bottom of the pile.



Piastri position secure at McLaren

The Red Bull management will argue with the rebranding rot come next season and the closer association with Red Bull in terms of shared components the only way is up for the Faenza based outfit.

Opportunities at the top F1 teams for the coming year look limited unless we have another bombshell like the one Sebastian Vettel dropped last year which caused the biggest stir in th eF1 driver market for years.

Having take a punt on the ex-Mercedes junior driver Nyck de Vries, Red Bull will be wary of making too radical a decision in appointing the soon to depart team mate of Max Verstappen, so that door may not be open for Alex Palou.

Having performed superbly and deserving a podium in Silverstone but for the safety car, Oscar Piastri is surely secure in his seat at McLaren and both Ferrari drivers are tied up for another year.

Red Bull social media follows Lando



Nothing ventured nothing lost

McLaren look set to retain Lewis Hamilton and Aston Martin have the team boss’s son as co-driver to Fernando Alonso who is on a multi year contract.

So if Palou wants to fulfil his Formula One dream it will be with a lower midfield outfit and maybe he will gamble on the Red Bull junior opportunity as a stepping stone to greater things in the future.

Should the Spanish driver go on to claim his second Indycar title in three seasons, his future is secure within the top flight of North American racing, so a gamble on a year or two in Formula One is not such a big risk after all.

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One response to “Indycar champ set for F1 debut

  1. Palou most definitely won’t become a Red Bull B-team driver in any case.
    That rumor proved more or less unfounded from the get-go.
    Realistically, the lineup for next season will be something from the following two combination options:
    TSU-LAW (I still reckon this as the most likely), or RIC-LAW.

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