INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – IndyCar champ Alex Ballou, who has contracts with two different race teams for 2023 and Chip Ganassi Racing is being sued, and announced Thursday: “I’ll be in the McLaren family next year.”
Dramas continued about the future of Palu With more twists and turns than the Spaniard will face in Saturday’s road track race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Ganassi this week filed a lawsuit in the Marion County Superior Court in Indianapolis which names both Palou and ALPA Racing, which are listed as Palou’s “racing entity”, as defendants.
At issue is the contract Ganassi made with the 25-year-old driver. The team owner says he made his exclusive choice over Palo to bring him back next year for a third season; Palou says he has informed CGR that he is leaving and has signed a contract with McLaren Racing.
McLaren boss Zak Brown has not decided whether he will use Palu for a third seat in IndyCar or in Formula 1, but Palo for the first time since the saga began on July 12. He firmly stated that he will wear McLaren Orange Papaya next season.
“We are disappointed that Chip Ganassi Racing will attempt to deny Alex the opportunity to compete in Formula One, and more so with the CGR public court filings and ongoing comments to the press on the matter,” Balu’s attorney, Rachel Epstein of Queen Emmanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, said Thursday. “We hope the parties can resolve this matter amicably, but if not, we look forward to resolving this matter in private arbitration, as requested by the CGR.”
Epstein is the first to admit that the shot in F1 is the main reason Ballou wants to leave Ganassi. Ballou hasn’t revealed much about his reasons for jumping out of car number 10 after just two seasons.
He has never driven or tested an F1 car before, but he holds the super license required by the FIA to compete in the world’s major motor racing series. Asked if it was McLaren’s ability to include him in Formula 1, a salary dispute, or something else that was tempting him away from Ganassi, Ballou declined to say. But does he want to drive a Formula One car?
He said, “Everyone wants.”
How did he do that?
I am not a lawyer. I’m a racing driver,” Baloo shrugged.
The entire circuit is watching the Palo stand as the drivers are unsure if Ganassi’s No. 10 car will be open.
The situation emerged too late for rookie Callum Ellot, who began talks in April with Juncos Hollinger Racing about a contract extension that was officially announced on Thursday. The 23-year-old Briton, who was part of Ferrari’s Formula One development programme, said other teams had contacted him over the past two weeks. It’s too late for Illot to move on to a larger program.
“The last two weeks have been fun for the whole circuit I think. I am a man of my word,” Ellot said. Of course, there was a lot of interest from others, but I was very honest from the start if anyone approached me.”
Palo certainly looks as if he expects his current seat in Ganassi to be available next year for another driver, but in the meantime he’s in the midst of another title race. He lost ground last weekend during the Iowa Speedway double and headed into Saturday’s sixth race in the standings, 44 points behind leader and teammate Marcus Ericsson.
Asked if he could still win the championship amid all the distractions, Ballou said: “It will be great when I win.”
Ericsson said he will continue to talk to Ballou and work with his teammate until he is directed to stop, but CGR cut off Ballou’s access to team data. He and Ganassi have not spoken since the fallout began three races ago.
“People will have opinions, but I’m not afraid people will think I’m a monster for being in the middle of this because at the end of the day they don’t really know what’s going on,” Ballou said.
Among those who aren’t sure of Palou’s character is star Arrow McLaren SP driver Pato O’Ward, who could be an IndyCar teammate with Palou next year.
Palou’s contract is specifically with McLaren Racing, which means Brown can use it anywhere in the establishment. O’Ward has a contract with Arrow McLaren – and both drivers want a shot at F1.
“I think a lot of the drivers thought we knew who he was,” Oward said. “I feel like he’s going to say a lot of things but then he does the exact opposite, which I don’t think is a secret. We’ve all seen it. It kind of sounds like reverse psychology, so whatever he says, expect absolute difference.”
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