IndyCar champ Alex Palou confirmed he was held off certain pieces of Chip Ganassi Racing’s data before the race in light of his team’s battle with McLaren for his future, but played down the impact on his pre-race preparation.
A struggle over Palo’s future began after his current team Ganassi announced his contract extension for 2023 two weeks ago, but only hours later Palo refuted a quote from him in that announcement and he and McLaren Racing announced that he would go there next season.
He has been as candid as he can be about the situation when he faced the media at the Toronto race last weekend, and did the same at Iowa Speedway on Friday, admitting that he has lost access to some distant history sources since pre-Toronto. .
“I still have the same kind of communication with my team, my three engineers and my crew and stuff,” Ballou said.
“It’s true that I don’t have access to the data and all that stuff, like from home and stuff while I’m here.
“Which I understand. I mean, it’s normal. I think I’d do the same if it was my team. So yeah, I’ve changed. But I understand. It’s not that I’m out of meetings and things like that.”
“It’s like not being able to access some documents, which you would do the same.
“So in terms of setup, I went to sim like I did before and I have my laptop here like I did before, so it’s not like they just took their laptop away. So everything is fine.”
After last week’s Toronto race, Felix Rosenqvist – a current driver at McLaren but someone whose future in IndyCar depends on where Balou ends up – has suggested that Balou likely won’t race at all next season amid the ongoing fight between the teams.
When asked by The Race if Balou had thought about it or would be happy for it to happen in order to achieve his long-term goal to join McLaren, he replied: “No, obviously not, I think nobody would be happy.
“In my opinion, it is all about racing. And that is what we are going to do next year.”
Toronto had an interesting weekend as Ballou crashed in practice and qualified 22nd after stopping on the track, but his return in the race to sixth was praised by his fellow competitors and teammates.
It was in stark contrast to the pre-race weekend when Scott Dixon criticized the way Ballou handled the contract status.
Asked about those comments, Balu replied, “I mean, I completely understand or completely accept all opinions and I have no problem with that.
“And also the relationship with my teammates, or the team itself, has not changed.
“So I understand that everyone will have different opinions and they will have a way of seeing things differently than yours.
“But at the same time, they are not in the same position you might be.”
Of course, Ballou’s streak before the weekend in Toronto was that the rumors wouldn’t affect his driving on the track, but the race’s hard boosting did nothing to quash any opinions to the contrary.
When asked if he feels like he needs to prove it’s not affecting him negatively, Ballou told The Race, “It wasn’t as easy as I wanted it to be. But, yeah, that was important.”
“Obviously, it was important to go from 22nd to get as much as possible. I wanted more but 6th was good, starting at 22nd. And we didn’t do that with strategy and stuff. So it was good.
“We had some good moves. He made me feel really comfortable and confident.
“Yes, it made me show the other drivers, to other people what to say [about his driving not being affected]that’s right, like, there’s a lot of things I understand and they’re all good.
“I’m not saying it shouldn’t be like this. But I am 100% focused on the races and things on the right track.”
Ultimately, there is no update from Palou on what might happen next. Ganassi claims he caused the contract extension and will stay in place, but McLaren still claims he signed it. Finding out who is right is not likely to be easy to solve.
And even if Ganassi’s interpretation of the contractual situation is correct, Palou has made clear his ambitions to join McLaren and so the two teams will have to come to an agreement. It won’t be easy because Chip Ganassi and Zak Brown are known not to be friends in the ring.
It was reported that Brown did not see Palou’s Ganassi contract by the Associated Press earlier this week, but McLaren confirmed that this was normal procedure and that he would not be able to access any driver’s contract from another team.
Baloo did little to clear things up – unsurprisingly – when asked if he had a deadline for resolving the situation.
“Today will be good!” to reply.
“No, honestly, no. And I have no idea if it will take two days, two weeks, or two months.”