In the world of Motorsport, you’re never too far away from a Silly Season. Whether it be in F1, of across the pond in the world of IndyCar. Because right now, one of their drivers is on such a hot streak it may force some F1 teams to entertain a conversation!
The driver in question is Alex Palou, the 2021 IndyCar Series Champion, who is currently dominating the 2023 season, having won three of the last four races and being 74 points ahead of his teammate and former Alfa Romeo driver Marcus Ericsson. (IndyCar’s scoring system is a little different to F1’s, but as a rough guide, it’s around 1.5x race weekends’ worth of points)
And if you follow the series, you’ll know Palou caused a stir last year when he committed to McLaren while still under contract with his IndyCar team at Chip Ganassi Racing. Both sides were preparing for a Federal Court case but settled it at the end of 2022.
Even so, it’s expected that Palou will leave at the end of the season, and he has made no secret of angling for an F1 move at some point down the line.
He was in the first place forced to leave the European junior ladder to head to Japan to race in Super Formula before landing in IndyCar in 2020.
But where could he end up? Let’s speculate to accumulate:
Don’t let that development deal he signed last year fool you. Despite being McLaren’s official reserve driver, it’s unlikely he will replace either Lando Norris or Oscar Piastri unless their relationships with Zak Brown deteriorate. Piastri’s been very solid as a rookie so far, and if nothing else Norris might be too loyal to Woking for a driver of his talents, but if he gets fed up with the team so far failing with its long-term goals of being contenders by the end of 2025, the Englishman could easily lose patience and kick up a stink before then…
Unlikely they’ll move on from either driver here. Valtteri Bottas is secure long-term and Zhou Guanyu has done a decent job of staying with him in his second season. And even if there was a move, they have F2 Championship contender Theo Pourchaire waiting in the wings and still only 19. You’d think their bases are covered.
Hard to ignore that Nyck de Vries has really struggled in his rookie season so far, probably not helped by higher expectations given his status as an experienced veteran and Formula E world champion. It also hasn’t helped the Dutchman that Yuki Tsunoda has made clear improvements in a critical year for the team.
If Dr Marko has concerns about Liam Lawson over in Japan or Ayumu Iwasa in F2, Alex Palou would be easier to bring over than Colton Herta last year, when everyone was debating whether the FIA should have cracked its entire superlicense system open for him. Because as far as know, Marko’s the only other senior official besides Zak Brown who acknowledges IndyCar as a viable series.
Or do you go one step further and put him all the way into the Red Bull second seat? Sergio Perez has removed one headache for the team – he’s not challenging for the title and so the team doesn’t have to get its hands too dirty with team politics. But at this point after three underperforming race weekends in a row, Christian Horner would probably also like his second car to be performing better. It’s a big punt, but Red Bull’s options from within are thin.
It would certainly be out of left field. We talked about Lance Stroll’s struggles in-depth earlier this week, but it would likely take Lawrence Stroll to be the most heartless Dad in F1, or an Aston Martin vote of no confidence from the board, to move Stroll Jr on. And with Honda pushing for Japanese representation, we doubt Palou’s top of the list – although he did represent it in Super Formula and took a Honda engine to an IndyCar title.
If you’re asking this writer, I reckon AlphaTauri’s the safest and most likely chance for all parties. But will any F1 team pull the trigger? We’ll have to wait and see.
IndyCar fans, where would you like to see Palou race if he moves to F1?