IndyCar champion Alex Palou ‘super happy’ about F1 practice debut in Austin

Alex Palou F1 Austin
Chris Graythen/Getty Images

AUSTIN, Texas — Former IndyCar champion Alex Palou had barely started his first live grand prix session behind the wheel of a F1 car when he declared the feel and speed of the McLaren “insane.”

Moments later, Williams’ Logan Sargeant was complaining of losing tire grip like a seasoned Formula One veteran.

Friday at the United States Grand Prix saw a parade of first-timers on the Circuit of the Americas in the day’s first, 60-minute session, giving the series a peek into the potential future of the drivers’ grid.

Palou finished it grinning ear to ear and wanting more.

“Super happy,” the Spaniard said. “It was a dream of mine.”

Palou had done a test drive in a 2021 F1 car, but driving Daniel Ricciardo’s current version on a live track was beyond his expectations. He drove it deep into the braking zones and corners to get everything he could out of his track time.

He also had to be careful.

“It was fast!” he said. “Then you have the traffic, you don’t want to impede anybody else and you have the car that isn’t yours. I was trying to take care of the car.”

Formula One mandates that all teams use reserve drivers for two practice sessions this season. That put four newcomers, plus former F1 regular Antonio Giovinazzi, behind the wheel.

All brought up the rear, finishing as the bottom five in the session.

“Our program today was not to go fast,” Palou said. “It was to get data.”

Palou was the biggest name in the bunch. After he won the 2021 IndyCar championship, the Arrow McLaren SP team tried to add him to its lineup for 2023. Palou ultimately was held to his existing Chip Ganassi Racing contract when the teams couldn’t agree on a buyout.

Palou is allowed to test drive for McLaren, but he won’t join McLaren’s racing program until 2024. And while he said as a racer, F1 would always be a dream, he’s still happy racing IndyCar.

“I still smile the same in IndyCar,” Palou said. “As a racing driver who likes motorsport, F1 is where you want to go. Throughout my career, I realized that F1 was not a place I could really achieve. I went through IndyCar and we achieved that. Funny enough, getting that IndyCar championship gave me the opportunity to be here today.

“I embraced every single second of it,” he said. “I’m not chasing it. If somebody gives me a ride, I’ll drive it. That’s the ultimate dream. (But) I have a career in IndyCar, we’ve been successful and I want to get as many championships as possible.”

Sargeant shoulders a different kind of expectation and pressure. The 21-year-old could be the American driver fans in the U.S. – and major sponsors – have been longing for.

Formula One hasn’t had an American on the grid since Alexander Rossi in 2015 and hasn’t had a champion since Mario Andretti in 1978. Sargeant is currently third in the F2 feeder series.

He drove Friday in place of Nicholas Latifi, who is not being retained by Williams for 2023. The team has not yet announced a replacement, and Sargeant could be in the mix.

“You have to be sensible, keep it together and do a sensible job. But it was crazy, everything would happen so quickly and so sharp,” Sargeant said.

Alfa Romeo 2023 reserve driver Theo Pourchair drove for Valtteri Bottas. The 19-year-old Frenchman is currently second in the F2 standings. And Ferrari’s 23-year-old development driver Theo Schwartzman drove the session for Charles Leclerc.

Giovinazzi, who has 67 career F1 starts and is now a reserve driver for Ferrari, had a miserable session driving for Haas’ Kevin Magnussen. The Italian had put in only a few laps when he spun and ran the car into the wall.

Ferrari topped both practice sessions, led by Carlos Sainz in the first and Leclerc leading the second. Both hope to challenge Red Bull’s season champion Max Verstappen for pole position Saturday. The previous nine races have been won from the front row.

Haas driver Mick Schumacher has been put on notice that he needs to score points and not wreck his car over the final four races if he hopes to retain his seat for 2023.

The son of former seven-time champion Michael Schumacher has scored points in only two races this season, and not since Austria in July. But teammate Kevin Magnussen came to his defense this week.

“Lately he has been super hard to beat for me,” Magnussen said. “I think the way he is driving right now he definitely deserves a place on the grid. But I haven’t had any influence. It is totally out of my hands and I can only just wish him well.”

Seven-time champion Lewis Hamilton of Mercedes said F1 and ownership group Liberty Media should have stepped in to help rescue the final races of the season of the financially strapped all-women W Series.

The W Series raced its third season, but dropped its final events in Austin and next week in Mexico City after a major investor fell through.

“There’s not really a pathway for those young, amazing drivers to even get to Formula 1, and then you have some people who say we’re never going to see a female F1 driver ever,” Hamilton said. “So that’s not a good narrative to be putting out …. with Formula 1 and Liberty doing so well it’s not a lot for them to be able to help out in that space.”

Vicki Golden and 805 Beer tell a unique story from an Inverted Perspective


Vicki Golden has earned a career worthy of a thousand stories and 805 Beer tells at least one of them, as “Inverted Perspective” premiered March 30 on the company’s website and YouTube channel.

Golden did more to break the glass ceiling in SuperMotocross than she ever thought possible. She knows this because riders have never felt the need to explain any of her accomplishments with the disclaimer, “for a girl”. 

At this point in Golden’s career, she’s been the first woman to finish top 10 in AMA Arenacross Lites, the first woman to qualify in the Fast 40 in Monster Energy AMA Supercross and the first woman to compete in freestyle Moto X competition, earning a bronze medal by doing so.

Her love for moto came from childhood while she watched her dad and brother ride. By seven she was on her bike and making waves throughout Southern California. 

Golden, 30, is still madly in love with the sport and has no plans on moving away but her career is already one to talk about. 805 Beer’s film series wanted to do exactly that.

“I’m taken aback by it all,” Golden told NBC Sports about the documentary. “It’s just crazy to see your story, it’s one thing to live your life and battle everything that comes about but it’s another to just sit there and talk about it.”

805 approached Golden about the feature by asking, “Do you even realize that what you do, and your story is special?”

Golden took the question as a blank canvas to map out the highs and lows of her career and life. 

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The title “Inverted Perspective” came from a brainstorming session with Dominick Russo and it highlights Golden’s outlook on the sport of SuperMotocross and her life in general. 

“My whole life, my whole career was thinking differently and looking at things that shouldn’t be done and aren’t there, while being able to make a place for myself, where no one thought there should be a place,” Golden said.  “It’s inspiring someone to think in different ways. It sums up my life.”

Vicki Golden is not “fast for a girl”; she’s just fast. – 805 Beer

While Golden is no stranger to the spotlight, this was the first time she’s been fully involved with the storytelling and creation of a feature about herself. 

“It’s not like a full new experience,” Golden said. “Obviously, you get your standard questions about your upbringing and accomplishments, but I’ve never really put into perspective things that happened in my past with my dad and putting that to light. Also, certain other things that maybe got overlooked in previous interviews or films. I wanted to touch on these and Dom wanted to create a story. It’s just cool to see it come to light, it’s a nearly impossible thing to tell somebody’s life story in 40 minutes.”

Golden’s father was left paralyzed after an ATV accident, robbing him the opportunity to ride again. This happened a few months before the father-daughter duo was set to compete in the Loretta Lynn’s Amateur Nationals when Vicki was 12. While she might have been unable to grasp the severity at the time, it’s something she carries with her. Golden continues to ride in his honor.

Years later, an accident in 2018 nearly sidelined the then 25-year-old Vicki when a freestyle accident almost resulted in the amputation of her lower leg. 

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Golden 805 Beer
Vicki Golden has ridden a variety of disciplines in SuperMotocross, which gives her a unique perspective. – 805 Beer

“Inverted Perspective” highlights her father’s diligence in helping Vicki continue with her career and the kindness and strength he carried while fighting his own battle. 

“My dad was the entire reason that I started riding in the first place,” Golden said. “So, to honor his memory and to honor what we went through and how hard he pushed to keep our dream alive and keep everything going – in that sense then, it was really special to be able to honor him and talk about him.”

The 40-minute feature was filmed entirely in black and white, a stark contrast from the oversaturated world of motocross where the brighter the suit the easier it is for fans to find their rider and follow him in the race. By filming in monochrome Russo and Golden had the chance to focus on the race and track from a different perspective. 

“It was cool to be able to film it differently,” Golden said. “It created a challenge in the sense of what was going to be more visually impactful for the film.

“I couldn’t be here without the companies that back me but at the same time, it’s not like the logos or colors disappeared, it’s just different lights shed on different spots. It’s just a cool way to do it and to take color away and still be impactful. When you think of black and white, you think of old school, the OG way of doing things.”