McLaren to sue future F1 star driver

Alpine and McLaren were at the centre of a driver dispute for several months last year in a legal tussle over the contract of junior driver Oscar Piastri. Alpine who had developed the young Australian  declared he would be the last minute replacement for Fernando Alonso who out of contract had decided to leave for Aston Martin.

This appeared to be the beginning of a number of embarrassing episodes for the French owned F1 team as their claim was thrown out by the courts and Piastri declared free to leave for the Woking based team.



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Finding a rookie F1 driver who can hit the ground running is like gold dust in the modern world where there is no in season testing. As Nyck De Vries, Nicolas Latiffi and Logan Sargeant have proved the Palou’s and Pastry’s of this world are few and far between.

Even Honda sponsored Yuki Tsunoda now in his third year as an F1 driver still has question marks over his future and will need to perform against his experienced team mate Daniel Ricciardo to save his seat for next year.

McLaren were involved in another tussle over a young driver last summer, Indycar’s latest star Alex Palou. The Spanish driver had won the American top flight single seater motorsport championship in just his second year in the competition and now in year four he is about to wrap up the title again with three races to go.

Chip Ganassi Racing defended their right to run Palou this year but McLaren signed a contract for Alex to join their organisation in 2024.

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Indycar champ drops McLaren

Now out of contract for 2024 with the Ganassi team, Palou has indicated he will not be joining McLaren either as part of their Indycar team or in Formula One.

Last week McLaren CEO Zak brown announced that Palou had “no intention” of honouring his contract with the team for 2024 or beyond and now the IndyStar newspaper reports McLaren Racing Limited and Arrow McLaren Indycar have jointly lodged a petition against Palou both in the USA and the UK.

These claims are not designed to force Palou into joining McLaren but to reclaim money’s paid to and on behalf of the defendant over the past twelve months.

Speaking to Forbes, Zak Brown stated: “We made a significant investment in Alex Palou, looking forward to racing with him in 2024. We’re placing our trust in the legal system to resolve this matter and will keep our comments at that.

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McLaren investment in Palo significant

“As a team, we’re turning our focus to the final races this season and on our plans for 2024, which we’ll announce once we’re ready.”

McLaren claim they made a downpayment to Alex Palou on his contract with them for 2024 and further wish to be reimbursed for “the millions of dollars toward developing him in our Formula 1 testing program and in his reserve driver role with a potential drive in F1 in the future.”

Each Formula One team must run two practice sessions in a season where their driver has less than four Grand Prix starts and in 2022 McLaren went all in with Palou.

In September last year McLaren announced they had signed Alex Palou to their testing programme which saw him test for the team both in Barcelona and in Austria. He then made his full F1 weekend debut in October by driving for them in free practice one at the United States Grand Prix in Austin.

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Comparing a Formula One car to his current Indycar steed, Palou eulogised it was “insane” and “capable of so much”.

McLaren then announced Palou as their test driver for 2023 and he recently drove the MCL35M at a test in Hungary alongside Oscar Piastri.

Given there are just 20 Formula One cars available and little in season testing, the cost and value of being offered a driver in one of the world’s premier racing series cars is both costly and a unique opportunity.

In a shock move, Palou’s management company dropped the Indycar star driver last week following the news he intended to break his agreement with McLaren.

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Monaco Agency drops Indycar star

In a statement the exclusive agency said: “Monaco Increase Management is bitterly disappointed to learn about Alex Palou’s decision to break an existing agreement with McLaren for 2024 and beyond. 

“Together, we had built a relationship that we thought went beyond any contractual obligation and culminated in winning the 2021 Indycar crown and tracing a path to F1 opportunities.”

They also stated they had been working with Palou up until Wednesday last week and were even planning his upcoming championship celebration for the final round in Laguna Sec when he dropped the bombshell.

Palou’s route to Formula One with McLaren became complicated around the time the team attempted to recruit him last year. Having dropped Daniel Ricciardo they were simultaneously pursuing Alpine’s Oscar Piastri.

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Palou’s Immediate future was with McLaren Indycar

Having secured his services, it was unclear as to how long Palou would have to wait to replace either the Australian or Lando Norris who is committed until the end of 2025 and the Spanish driver would have to wait for his big F1 chance.

McLaren admit his immediate future would have been just with their Indycar team which has yet to win a race this season in North America.

“This is incredibly disappointing, considering the commitment (Alex) has made to us both directly and publicly and our significant investment in him based on that commitment. 

“We dedicated a lot of time, money, and resources preparing to welcome Alex into our team because we believed in him and were looking forward to IndyCar wins with him.

“Coming out of his team dispute last fall, we were assured by Alex of his commitment to Arrow McLaren reflected in the contract he entered into with us.”

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F1 teams may now be wary of Palou

Whilst McLaren are no longer attempting to recruit Alex Palou, the fact his Monaco based management company has dropped him – despite the huge future revenues they would have received from the brightest star in North American Racing – would suggest his legal battle with McLaren will result in some kind of reparations payable to the McLaren organisation.

On talent alone, Alex Palou would probably make his way at some point into Formula One, though it could be his brand has been damaged by breaking his agreement with McLaren and other Formula One teams will be wary of courting his services.

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