MADISON, Ill. (AP) — Alex Palou confirmed Friday he’s being sued by McLaren — the second team to sue him in a year — but the IndyCar points leader is focused on his bid to win a second championship in three years.
The Spaniard confirmed an Indianapolis Star report that McLaren is suing Palou in the United Kingdom for damages because Palou does not intend to join McLaren as planned in 2024. McLaren has made Palou its reserve driver in Formula One, where it has spent significantly on his development, and claims to have paid him in advance on his 2024 salary, as well as his legal fees in last year’s fight with Chip Ganassi Racing.
Ganassi took Palou to court last summer because Palou, the 2021 IndyCar champion, said he was declining Ganassi’s team-owner option on his contract and instead moving to McLaren. The matter was resolved through mediation, with Palou finishing his contract with Ganassi this year while working with McLaren in F1 on his off IndyCar weekends.
But, Palou is having a tremendous IndyCar season. He’s won four races and leads teammate Scott Dixon by 101 points headed into Sunday’s race at Gateway outside St. Louis. There are three races remaining this season and Palou could clinch his second title in three years at at any time.
“The lawyers are telling me stuff about what’s going on and what they think,” Palou said Friday. “That’s good, it’s in their hands. I’m just trying to be a bit more away from all that to last year and trying to really go for races and focusing on the racing. I know everything that’s going on and I’m not taking that apart, but there’s also not a lot more that I can do there, so I can only lose concentration on the races.”
The Star reported McLaren is seeking to recoup between $20 million and $30 million in damages stemming from Palou reneging on his McLaren deal.
The last year has been a wild ride for the 26-year-old. He made his IndyCar debut in the bubble-isolated 2020 pandemic season and went quietly about his business driving for an underfunded team. He was snapped up by Ganassi for 2021, finished second in the Indianapolis 500 and won his first major championship in any series that year.
Then the legal wrangling for his future began.
McLaren said a year ago it had signed Palou, and Arrow McLaren Racing employees received an email from head Zak Brown in which Brown informed them Palou had reneged on the deal. A copy of Brown’s latter was obtained by The Associated Press, and in it, Brown wrote that Palou had given him multiple assurances he’d be wearing papaya in 2024 and has already received an advance on his salary.
Palou on Friday did not comment on any arrangements he had in place or what has changed in his plans.
“I think one Sunday, I’ll write a story, maybe a book, so everybody knows what’s been going on since ’22, ’23, each month” Palou said. “For now, I’m not going to give a lot of information.”
The litigation over Palou’s future comes at the same time Ganassi teammate Marcus Ericsson said he’s leaving at the end of the season to drive for Andretti Autosport in 2024.
“He’s happy, and I think he’ll be in good hands,” Palou said. “I would say he’s been one of the best teammates I’ve ever had, in all seriousness. We had lots of fun together and he’s been a tough, tough competitor. I’m really happy for him. He seems to be happy.”