Last week McLaren Racing announced that Rene Rast would pilot 1 of their 2 Formula E cars next season. On Friday, it was confirmed that Oscar Piastri would pilot their 2nd Formula One car and team with Lando Norris for multiple years to come.
So, what does this do to the Alex Palou and Felix Rosenqvist situations. It likely now means that if McLaren wins the case in favor of Palou then the defending NTT INDYCAR Series champion will slide into the No. 7 Dallara-Chevrolet on the INDYCAR side of things. That would then move Rosenqvist over to the 2nd Formula E seat.
There’s nothing else available.
I have a feeling though, that’s what Zak Brown was after all along. It would shape him for the future in all 3 series with Pato O’Ward, Alexander Rossi and Palou in INDYCAR, Norris and Piastri in Formula 1 and Rast and Rosenqvist in Formula E.
Brown made it known when he and Rosenqvist agreed to a multi-year extension that he wanted an experienced driver to anchor the Formula E side. Rosenqvist made the most sense in the fact that he used to race in the series and was a proven race winner in it at that.
A statement read this past June, “McLaren Racing is currently in the process of evaluating its driver line-ups for 2023 with the newly formed McLaren Formula E Team set to embark on its debut season in the all-electric racing series and plans to expand Arrow McLaren SP into a three-car team with Felix set to be driving in one of the two series.”
Zak Brown had similar language.
“I’m delighted to be continuing our relationship with Felix,” said Brown. “He’s a fantastic racer, with a lot of experience in many different types of racing cars. As a proven race winner in both categories, it was important for us to secure his talent within the McLaren Racing family as we work to finalize our plans for 2023. His experience in Formula E would be invaluable as we head into this exciting new era of racing for McLaren Racing but he has also made a fantastic contribution to our IndyCar team. I look forward to working together with him to finalize the best opportunity for him next season.”
However, Rast brings similar experience himself. He raced “in a number of rounds between 2016 to 2021, in which he scored two podiums, with a highest place finish of second.”
That’s the wording from McLaren in their press release.
So is this:
“His previous experience in Formula E will be invaluable as we head into this exciting new era of racing for McLaren Racing. I’m delighted to welcome René to the McLaren Racing family,” Brown said in that release.
It gets him 2 drivers in Formula E with experience. But that could in turn allow Rosenqvist to stay in INDYCAR provided the Palou saga ends with the Spaniard having to stay with Ganassi too.
Rosenqvist admitted in Nashville that his future is largely dependent on the Palou saga.
“Obviously it’s another car coming to the team next year,” Rosenqvist said earlier this month in Nashville. “I think it’s all depending on the (Alex) Palou case what’s going to happen with me.”
The thing is, if Palou isn’t allowed to go to McLaren, then Rosenqvist can now stay put. That’s what he truly wants at the end of the day. Rast’s experience allows Rosenqvist to maybe stay here now if that’s the path they each feel is best.
“For the Formula E stuff, I mean, I think that’s kind of secondary at this point,” Rosenqvist admitted in Nashville. “Mainly just focusing on what I’m doing here now, try not to get distracted by what’s going on in the background.”
A few weeks prior, he made it clear he wants to stay in INDYCAR following his Toronto podium.
“I want to be where I’m at right now,” Rosenqvist said back in Toronto. “I think Arrow McLaren SP has pretty much become a home for me. Yeah, it’s up to Zak. He’s the man who is making the moves. Probably going to take a couple of weeks before we know more. Hopefully today (Toronto) changed something. My ambition is to keep proving it that way.”
Then he said this during the Gallagher Grand Prix race weekend.
“INDYCAR, I think it’s kind of addicting in a way,” he says. “Like it’s very tough. It’s probably — I wouldn’t say like — the driver level is high everywhere in professional championships, but it’s just such a team effort to get everything right on the day in terms of setup, pit stop strategy. The driver has to be fit, he has to be focused. There’s just so many variables, and if you lose one second in a pit sequence, you’re gone. That’s your day gone.
“I think that whole thing becomes — like when you succeed and when you win a race or get a podium or whatever, it’s just something you want to do again because it’s very rewarding when you do well, but it can also be brutal when you’re struggling, as I did last year. It was a super tough season for sure.
“But yeah, I’m doing well, and I want to continue that, so yeah, hopefully I’ll stay.”
He has the stamp of approval from current teammate in O’Ward.
“I mean, I love the guy, and I think what makes the atmosphere in the team so good to work around him is that he’s a genuine good guy, and it’s very easy to work with him,” he says. “It’s in his best interest for the whole team to do well. He won’t section himself off and kind of — in the back of his head kind of wish bad upon the other car just to do better. No, I think that’s what makes our team very special is we’re all obviously pushing each other, but we’re both working together to create a package that’s going to be easier for both of us to drive and just to get better.
“The point is to have a team that is P1 and P2, right? That’s always going to be the goal.
“I just think he fits exactly what the team of McLaren Racing and all that stands for. In order to create a team or to make a team better and drive it forward, you need complete trust and transparency when working with each other. If you don’t have that, you’ve got nothing.”
For Palou, it’s either INDYCAR or Formula E then and the Formula E program is a huge demotion of what he has now and INDYCAR isn’t what I get the feeling he wanted to do for 2023. I get the notion Palou was hoping for a move back to Spain and an F1 opportunity. The wording last month from his lawyers made it seem that way. That Chip Ganassi Racing was blocking a future F1 opportunity for their client.
Now, that F1 opportunity seems to be long gone. Piastri and Norris are both 22 years of age and under. They’re set up for the long haul for McLaren F1’s side. Where does this leave Palou?
I would almost see it as an opportunity to make amends with Ganassi. This could cost him his future if he doesn’t. I don’t see any other F1 team wanting to chat with him because of the on going case with Ganassi/McLaren. I don’t see any team in the world wanting to get involved in that.
With an F1 ride now gone, isn’t it best to stay with a team you can win championships in here? Ganassi and Penske make up the entire top 6 in points right now and likely are going to take their 10th straight series championship. Why move to an organization trying to be the first not named Andretti, Penske or Ganassi to win an INDYCAR title since 2002?
“Oh, I mean the guy has a contract, like I mean, if not, then contracts wouldn’t be written for anything, right?” said O’Ward of Palou last month. “Like, from my understanding, he has a contract. And I don’t think he has a choice. When you have a contract and the team decides what you do, you don’t have a choice.
“I know that’s the problem but like there wouldn’t be a second problem if he just said ‘sorry.’ Because when you have a contract your hands are tied, man. It doesn’t matter if you really want to leave the team. You can’t you cannot. Because the team chose to, to keep you and doesn’t matter where you are mentally does not matter. If, if that’s what the contract says then he’s got one and I don’t know how it is, but from my understanding is he’s got a contract. And I think, yeah, I mean, for me, it’s like, I mean, I’m very curious to see how it all plays out at all. I think everyone else is too but yeah, but like, I mean, I don’t think like he doesn’t have a choice. Unless the contract says that it’s got to be a mutual.”
Key there is saying, “sorry.” Maybe that’s where Palou needs to go. Maybe he can get out of his deal with Zak Brown because if he stays, he’s could be heading to FE. Wait too long and there doesn’t seem to be an option to drive for McLaren over here in INDYCAR for 2023 if they just decide to allow Rosenqvist to stay. Formula 1 is now likely a distant pipe dream.
Palou has all the talent in the world but if you’re another team in the paddock, I don’t think you trust him. Ganassi is clearly not happy with him. The 2 have barely spoke.
Maybe it’s time they do. Maybe it’s time Palou tucks his tail and decides to talk with Ganassi. How can they make this work together because what they do have is a great opportunity at greatness.
Palou is the future of Ganassi should he want it. Ganassi is a fair man. He’d pay Palou for being a star driver. There’s a reason Scott Dixon has remained there for so long. Palou is the next Scott Dixon or dare I say better?
Maybe they need to rekindle that flame of last year. It’s time.
Ganassi got Palou when he had no other offers and no money to bring to the table. Palou was forever grateful for that.
“But Chip — and not only Chip, but all the team trusted in me, believed in me, and they gave me this opportunity, which is amazing,” Palou said of Ganassi last year. “Like going from not knowing if you’re going to be around next year or not and then suddenly they give you the champion car, it’s like, wow, amazing.”
Ganassi was fond of Palou in return.
“It’s as big as it gets. Just to see this young man come along, it’s been a few dry years in the 10 car,” Ganassi said after Palou gave him his 14th INDYCAR championship last year in Long Beach. “I go back to think of Dario and Dan Wheldon in the 10, all the successes they had.
“Unfortunately for one reason or another, we haven’t found that right combination for a few years. You have to work just as hard. Sometimes you’re probably working harder than the guys on the 10 car and the 8 and the 48. They have to work harder sometimes than the champion.”
That’s why Ganassi valued Palou as much as he did. It’s also why Palou got a bit greedy and felt he was owed more right away. After just 16 races, he felt like he was already owed a hefty raise. I mean, I get it. He won a title and proved what kind of driver he was. But they were just 1 year into a 3 or 4 year deal.
Palou felt like he proved enough already to merit a new deal instead. Ganassi didn’t necessarily disagree, but they needed time to figure out a way to null the initial deal and find a way to sign Palou to a newly structured deal with better guarantees, more money and less team friendly options.
That takes time. Unfortunately for both sides, last season didn’t end until late September and for the first time since 2003, the next one would start in February.
They didn’t reach a new deal and Palou was upset. He felt internally he was wronged. He felt like he was owed more and felt like this team should be more of his. He started talking to McLaren. When Ganassi found it, he was pissed. He felt betrayed. This guy that had no where to go, Ganassi gave him 2 guaranteed years and provided him a car capable of a championship and now this guy wants out because of money?
The talks took a different turn and headed in a different direction. That direction could be to what leads him back to where he came. The wind blew to McLaren but maybe the McLaren wind blew him back to Ganassi.
It’s not too late. These court cases can be dropped. It’s down to ego now and Ganassi maintains that Palou is his driver for 2023. Maybe it’s time for Palou to recognize that and stay put and then talk to Ganassi about a future deal.
Where this ruins Palou, there’s no way Ganassi offers him a deal to where Palou holds any option. He may get a pay raise that he’s owed and I know Ganassi would recognize that and offer him more money, but you can forget about Palou having any option to where he’s in control. That could be said of any team dealing with him. I don’t think he’s to be trusted so in that case, just stay here with Ganassi and INDYCAR and win a bunch of races and championships together.