NEWTON, Iowa – Alex Palou maintains nothing has changed in his commitment to Chip Ganassi Racing, but there is a twist in his working relationship with the team.
Palou revealed Friday before NTT IndyCar Series practice at Iowa Speedway that he no longer has remote access to engineering and setup data. The No. 10 Dallara-Honda driver said he still can look at the information at the track (but presumably with team supervision that would preclude saving the information).
The arrangement changed immediately after Palou’s contract imbroglio began July 12 when Ganassi and McLaren Racing both claimed to have deals with the 2021 IndyCar champion for the 2023 season.
“I don’t have the access I had before to the data and all that stuff from home,” Palou said. “When I’m here, I have it. Not from home like the same I had before. Which I understand. It’s normal. I think I’d do the same if it was my team. It changed, but I understand it. It’s not that I’m out of meetings and stuff like that.”
It’s common in all forms of motorsports for teams to restrict manufacturer and team information from drivers in a lame-duck season.
After Tyler Reddick signed for the 2024 season in a 23XI Racing Toyota, 23XI team owner Denny Hamlin disclosed that Richard Childress Racing and Chevrolet would have parameters on the limited contact Reddick would be allowed with 23XI before officially joining the team. If they’ve been eliminated from playoff contention, it’s common for NASCAR Cup Series drivers often are excluded from debriefs in the closing months of a season if they are headed elsewhere the following year.
Palou indicated his working relationship with Ganassi hasn’t been so affected, though he said the July 15-17 weekend at Toronto was difficult.
“I still have the same kind of communication with my team and engineers and crew,” he said. “I think it was obviously hard, especially for my crew, the people I work with, there was a lot of noise regarding our car and stuff, and lots of people were asking a lot more questions to them than to me. Because people know I would say, ‘No comment, nothing to say.’ So I think it was hard for them.
“I try to just tell them that my head was in the 10 car in 2022. Nothing else. On Toronto and now on Iowa. I think it all came together good.”
Palou also said no progress had been made on his future and confirmed Friday he also didn’t talk with team owner Chip Ganassi over the three-day weekend in Toronto. “But basically it’s not like we talk about future stuff,” Palou said. “It’s whatever is going on. We’re here to race. It was the same message I tried to give to my crew as well.”
Palou has tried to send the same message to teammates Scott Dixon, Marcus Ericsson and Jimmie Johnson.
“In Toronto at the beginning, I didn’t know how that was going to be, but it was all fine,” Palou said. “At the end of the day, they have a job to race the 9, 8 and 48, but they understand it’s part of the job as well. You might be in the middle of a lot of noise in the future or whatever. But it hasn’t affected how we work as a team or any of that.”
Still, the contract dispute drew criticism from Dixon, who felt it “could have been handled a lot better.”
Palou said he and Dixon hadn’t discussed his comments.
“Everyone can have his opinion,” Palou said. “It’s not that I don’t agree or agree. It’s his opinion. And it’s also a bit easy to see from the outside and say, ‘Oh yeah, I’d have done this or that.’ Then when you’re in the position, this is what it is. It’s not like I like noise before a race being in the middle of a media cloud. I’m totally the opposite of that normally. I’m, ‘Hey man, just leave me alone. I want to race.’ ”
Asked about his relationship with Palou in a Friday interview at Iowa with NBC Sports, Dixon said “the team did a very good job of making sure we just did what we do every weekend. I think it’s as normal as it’s going to be.”
The six-time series champion was unaware that Palou’s remote access to Ganassi data had been cut off.
“I have nothing to do with that stuff,” Dixon said. “That’s not my call. That’s above my pay grade.
“But yeah, I think it gets tricky. This is the problem, right? The knock-on effect is not just about yourself, it’s about everybody. Whether it’s your sponsor. It caught a lot of people off guard, so it pisses a lot of people off, so whether that’s Honda or whoever.
“What we do as a team and a lot of that data and things like that. It’s what makes the team what it is. I had no idea how that was handled. I’m sure they’re being a little more careful than what they were.”
The ripple effects also involve Felix Rosenqvist, who has signed a multiyear extension with McLaren to drive in either IndyCar or Formula E starting next season.
Rosenqvist was lobbying hard to remain in IndyCar after a season-best third at Toronto (his first podium finish since his July 12, 2020 victory at Road America) but is unsure if strong results will help his cause. It largely depends on what McLaren does with Palou (who also could be in one of the team’s Formula One seats).
Rosenqvist said he had a “heart-to-heart” conversation Wednesday with McLaren CEO Zak Brown.
“Obviously I think neither him or me can say what are the odds, what are the chances I’m going to stay,” Rosenqvist said. “I’ve been vocal about wanting to stay because there wouldn’t be a reason for me to want to go anywhere else. The situation, you can’t always pick what you want. I think I’m still in a lucky situation where I have something else lined up if it doesn’t work out. Even drivers in F1 end up without a seat sometimes. In that way, it’s not tough.
“What’s hard is I really love my team and really enjoy working with these guys and girls, and I think it’s always hard from an emotional side to think you might leave them. Leave your workplace. As you grow older, you learn that’s everything you want. You want a place that you’re happy to work with the people. It’s less about which championship, which sponsor. I think it’s all about having that group, which I think I finally have now. That’s obviously hard, but man. We’ll see where it goes. I can only do one thing. We’ll see where it lands. … I told (Brown) how I feel about it. He told me how he feels about it. I know at the end of the day, it’s a business thing. It’s nothing personal against anyone. We just try to work it out. The most important thing is focus on the remaining races.”
In addition to finding a home with the No. 7 Dallara-Chevrolet crew, Rosenqvist also feels he has found a home in IndyCar. After Toronto, Graham Rahal said Rosenqvist deserved a spot in the series and that Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing would hire him if he was available
“I really appreciate that,” Rosenqvist said. “That was really touching to hear that from him right after the race. I’m committed to McLaren but really appreciate him saying that. Means a lot.
“I spent my last four years (in IndyCar). I think it was hard to integrate coming from Europe, but once you’re in it, it’s a very addicting environment to be in. The cars are very fun to drive, really cool people. Not only the people you work with but fans and media. It’s just a good little family traveling around the North America. Yeah, I love it. For sure going to be hard to leave if I end up leaving.”