After intense speculation over interest from McLaren, Chip Ganassi Racing has exercised its option on Alex Palou for the 2023 IndyCar season.
The 2021 IndyCar champion won the title in his first season with Ganassi and his second in IndyCar after moving from Dale Coyne Racing.
With Zak Brown looking to fill a third entry after re-signing Pato O’Ward to a new contract and poaching Alexander Rossi from Andretti Autosport, Palou was one of the options Brown is known to have pursued hard.
Palou told The Race earlier this year that he ‘loved’ that other teams were eyeing him and that they wanted him to be a part of their projects.
As recently as this week sources told The Race that McLaren was still trying to do a deal for Palou, but Tuesday’s announcement secures his future at the team he won the title with for another year.
“It’s a great feeling knowing I’ll be back with Chip Ganassi Racing next season,” Palou was quoted as saying.
“The team welcomed me with open arms from day one, and I’m excited to continue working with Chip, Mike Hull, the folks on the #10 NTT Data car and everyone within the organisation.
“The goals remain the same and we will continue to work relentlessly towards achieving them.”
Brown reportedly offered Palou a significant salary and the possibility of Formula 1 seat time, but it was always going to be tough to extricate Palou from his contract.
Ganassi’s six-time champion Scott Dixon was also coveted by Brown with the offer of a leadership role within the team when he retired, but Dixon played down the possibility of that earlier this month.
Chip Ganassi added: “Alex’s track record speaks for itself.
“He’s a proven champion and one of the most formidable drivers in the world. We are very excited to continue working together.”
The Race says: What next for McLaren
With Palou off the table, the chances of Felix Rosenqvist being retained by McLaren greatly increase.
Rosenqvist was recently signed to a contract extension with McLaren, with two separate options lined up in case Brown installed Rosenqvist in IndyCar or Formula E.
Being the only driver to have won in both IndyCar and Formula E, Rosenqvist is a hot property for McLaren which will join the electric single-seater series later this year.
Aside from Dixon and Palou, Rinus VeeKay remains the only established driver on the silly season market in IndyCar who could replace Rosenqvist if the latter left for Formula E.
VeeKay struggled through the Month of May despite qualifying third for the Indianapolis 500, and while he has strong upside and an IndyCar race win, he would represent a risk for the team whereas Rosenqvist’s 2022 resurgence makes him a better fit for the seat, especially as he’s so well liked in the team and wanted by Arrow McLaren SP president Taylor Kiel and team-mate O’Ward.
Junior single-seater to Formula E drivers have been successful in that series, such as Nyck de Vries, who won the 2020-21 title, so either a junior or a veteran driver on the market could still be an option there for McLaren and an easier job than replacing Rosenqvist in IndyCar.
Tuesday’s news makes it very likely Rosenqvist is getting his wish of staying in IndyCar longer-term, although there’s time for that to change yet.