Nashville, Tenn. Fernando Alonso created this mess, right?
Or is it IndyCar champ Alex Ballou?
Perhaps McLaren Racing boss Zak Brown should be to blame? After all, he’s the one who hoards anyone who can drive a race car in a ridiculous motorsport season where domino effects span three series, all over the world and in at least one courtroom.
Baloo probably started it all a month ago. Chip Ganassi said he had chosen the team’s option in the Spaniard’s contract for next season, but the driver deplored the team’s press statement and said he would not return in 2023. Minutes later McLaren said he had signed Palo.
Ganassi is now suing Palou, who says emphatically that he will be with McLaren next season, and has watched the entire IndyCar circuit with wide eyes as each race weekend brings a new twist to the legal drama.
But then Alonso raised the stakes when Aston Martin stunned the Formula 1 world by announcing on Monday that it had signed the two-time world champion. Alonso did not feel the need to inform his current team, who assumed he would return to the Alps for another year.
Then Alpine had to scramble and said late the next day that it was promoting its reserve driver to Alonso’s seat. Oscar Piastre then pulled Palou – a tweet rejecting the Alpine F1 seat that was closely couched with Palou – and said he would not lead the team.
McLaren has yet to confirm that it has signed the 21-year-old Australian, but it appears all contractual paperwork has been submitted regarding the deal even before Alonso ditched Alpine. McLaren is now working on a buyout deal with current Formula 1 driver Daniel Ricciardo, Palou is in legal trouble and Felix Rosenqvist has no idea if he’s keeping his IndyCar seat with Arrow McLaren SP or shipped to Formula E and replaced with Palou.
With only four races remaining in the most-watched IndyCar season in decades and a championship battle of six drivers, the entire circuit is focused on this contract drama and who’s driving it next season.
“I hope all the drivers are fine and can drive for whomever they want. Colton Herta, who has already tested a McLaren F1 this year and is supposed to drive a first practice session during this year’s race weekend,” said Colton Herta.
Of course, Herta’s plans were made before Brown tapped into all the young talent he could get, and now even McLaren’s dizzying roster is staggering. Here’s what we know:
Alonso: He kept the option of his contract with Alpine, and he left for Aston Martin when he wasn’t offered a multi-year deal.
PIASTRI: McLaren is now available to sign ahead of Alonso’s decision because Alpine apparently failed to file contractual paperwork on him for 2023.
PALOU: Hop in a shot to join the McLaren team for a chance in F1. If he is able to pull off his Ganassi ride for 2023, he will hit Rosenqvist from the McLaren IndyCar lineup and will also become McLaren F1 reserve driver.
PATO O’WARD: Under contract with McLaren at IndyCar, he is expected to be tested in F1 next season.
HERTA: It is expected to continue testing McLaren in Formula 1, and FP1 could still take place in Formula 1 this season depending on how Palo’s situation is settled and/or whether McLaren has access to the Piastre before the end of 2022.
Alexander Rossi: Sign Andretti Autosport to join the McLaren IndyCar squad next season.
Rosenqvist: He and McLaren announced in early June an agreement to continue with the team, both in IndyCar and with the Formula E team, starting next season. He sits in limbo waiting for Palo’s decision, but desperately wants to keep his IndyCar seat.
If there is any sympathy shown in this saga, it should go to Rosenqvist, who caught Brown’s attempt to stock up on a deep seat of drivers. Although he may have initially agreed to move to Formula E, fourth place in the Indianapolis 500 ignited a performance and a desire to hold onto his seat.
Ahead of Sunday’s race in Nashville, there were indications that the Swede was shopping himself to other teams should Brown go ahead with his Formula E plan. But McLaren retains the 2023 option in Rosenqvist’s contract and is likely to hold it until the Ballou case is settled; By then, all IndyCar seats may be full and Rosenqvist will be left with nothing.
The situation was stressful for Rosenqvist, who, like everyone else, was tired of talking about contracts.
“This is between me and Zack to be honest,” he said in Nashville about his future. Better not to talk about contracts. This is why they are contracts, because they are made for you and the other signatory. Not for the public to know.
But will he lead another IndyCar team if Palou takes his place on the McLaren team?
He replied, “That’s what we’ll see.”
As for Brown, well, he’s been uncharacteristically quiet since the Palo and Pestre parking explosions, but he desperately wants every driver he’s signed on to in the McLaren family. They are all moving pieces in his master plan to bring McLaren back to the fore in the multi-car series around the world.
As Brown collects his stock of drivers, everyone remains dumbfounded at how everything plays out and how much money it will cost him in the end.
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