MONTEREY, California. While Alex Palow’s future remains very uncertain (and possibly far from a decision), there is little doubt that Felix Rosenquist will return to the NTT IndyCar Series next year.
On Sunday morning, McLaren Racing CEO Zack Brown told a small group of reporters that by the end of September, the team would make a decision on who would race alongside IndyCar teammates Pato O’Ward and Alexander Rossi in 2023.
McLaren signed Palu and Rosenquist the following year. Palu is involved in a contract dispute with Chip Ganassi Racing, which has filed a lawsuit against the reigning series champion who claims the team retains rights to the Spaniard.
Rosenquist, who is in his second season at McLaren after two years with Ganassi, originally signed an extension in June that saw him get a ticket. for IndyCar or Formula E depending on where the McLaren had space.
PALU HINTS TO RETURN: After the victory, Palu left the door open to stay in Ganassi
But with the Palou situation still unresolved, the team has until the end of September to keep Rosenquist or let him go on another IndyCar ride. Brown said McLaren would no longer force Rosenquist, who was courted by several IndyCar teams for 2023, to keep him in Formula E.
“The work is still going on,” Brown said about six hours before Palu’s win in the season finale, and then hinted he might stay at Ganassi. “I would say that I am very happy with Felix. He has done an excellent job this year. He was strong all year. Let’s see how it works. I would be very happy to see Felix in our car again.
“We need to make a decision because I think another team (IndyCar) will pick him up.”
While there is some clarity in Rosenquist’s predictions, the Palu situation remains hazy. Ganassi and Palu reportedly worked through arbitration to try to reach a settlement and avoid trial.
Asked how likely it is that the Palou situation will be resolved within the next three weeks, Brown replied: “It’s hard to say. I’d say the ball is on Chip’s side.
Brown objected when asked if McLaren would back out of the Palou deal, but pointed out that the organization (which has entries in Formula One, IndyCar, Formula E, and Extreme E) could take over Palu if it didn’t race in IndyCar next year.
“Ultimately, we need to make a decision about being ready for next year, so I think by the end of the month we will know what we are doing,” Brown said. “I am very happy to continue testing (Palou) in a Formula 1 environment, but that will be something that Alex and Ganassi will have to agree on between them.”
This is the second time this season that McLaren has been embroiled in a high-profile contract dispute. The team recently won the rights to Oscar Piastri, not Alpine, in a case brought before the F1 Contract Recognition Board.
Here are the highlights of what Brown had to say about both disputes Sunday morning in a 30-minute sit-down before the IndyCar season finale at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca:
Q: Are you surprised to find yourself involved in similar issues on multiple shows?
Brown: “These were two completely different questions that just converged at the same time. I am pleased with the result, obviously, not just the result, but the fact that later it became clear what happened. Because we didn’t comment on it. We knew we had a contract. I think the CRB decision was unanimous. They gave their comment. So it was good to do it. It’s a pity to have two at the same time.
Question: Is there any scenario in which Rosenquist or Palu will not be on the third car next year? Is there a scenario that next year Pato and Rossi will have another driver as a teammate?
Brown: “Sitting here right now, no. But who knows what will happen tomorrow sitting here right now.”
Q: What will happen if you come face to face with Chip (Ganassi) today. You say?
Brown: “I haven’t spoken to him since all this happened, but yes, I would definitely talk.
Q: Will he talk to you?
Brown: I dont know. You have to ask him (laughs). I had a great time with Mike Hull (Managing Director of Ganassi). Mike Hull and I get along very well.
Question: Are you surprised that McLaren is poaching drivers after the Oscar Piastri situation?
Brown: “I think before people saw the CRB ruling, they didn’t know what they didn’t know, and we deliberately kept our mouths shut. Now that this ruling has been promulgated in detail, it becomes clear what happened there. We knew there was a lot of noise, but we knew that the truth would eventually come out and we just needed to get through it somehow and not make quick comments. So at the time, I didn’t pay attention to the noise and some of the direct messages I got from the fans. But now we are very happy that CRB is out and it is very clear and I am sure we will resolve this issue here soon.
Q: Was the decision to keep quiet about Piastri related to what happened to Palu?
Brown: “No, these were two completely different questions, which, unfortunately, appeared at the same time, so it was very noisy, but we did not comment on anything here either. I think it was better to just let things develop and then add some color. I think if you look at all the comments from Otmar (Safnauer, Alpine team principal) he played a bit on the CRB game and how confident they were, and now I think he looks a bit silly. I think that’s why it’s better to keep your mouth shut, and we can talk about it after the fact, when we have something concrete to say.
Q: Does IndyCar need a contract recognition commission?
Brown: “In Formula 1, it worked very well. It was a one day hearing. Came back the same week. It was unanimous. CRB has only been tested three times since its inception, and I think this is the first time IndyCar has experienced this. So I don’t know if you need it, because one thing happens. Another may not happen for another 20 years, but CRB has proven itself well in Formula 1.”
Question: What happened to Felix and the alternative plan to send him to Formula E?
Brown: “There’s been a lot of speculation about this, so it’s best to clear it up. At the time we made the announcement, Felix was happy to continue with IndyCar and was also very happy to move to Formula E. So at the time there was an agreement between us that said I was happy wherever you took me. put. So we made an announcement to reassure him and ourselves that we would be racing together. After that time, he decided he wanted to stay with IndyCar, which happened. So instead of me driving the way we agreed, I would never stop the driver from doing what he wants to do. So I told Felix that I understand that you want to be in IndyCar. Let’s see what’s going on. There is other activity that appeared after that. We have announced René Rast (for Formula E), we are finalizing who will be in the second car. So in the end they released (Felix) from our verbal agreement. We had a handshake, and after that he wanted to participate in IndyCar, and I understand that. I don’t think it would be right to say yes, but we agreed to it.
Q: If you are not in the Ganassi-Palu litigation but want to help move the case forward, how does it work?
Brown: “I think everyone wants permission. We do. Alex does. Ganassi will. So whatever we do to help people make decisions, we are willing to help to a certain extent. But the last race of the year is here, we need to continue planning for next year.”
Question: So Felix Rosenquist is almost 100% sure that next year he will race in IndyCar, be it your team or someone else?
Brown: “I’m 100% sure he wants it, I can’t comment if he wasn’t racing here if he would have gotten the ride (in IndyCar). I think he would. But I don’t know for sure.”
Q: Were you surprised by the level of annoyance about the Palu situation?
Brown: “No. That’s not what I thought when I walked in, because I realized that he was free and clean.
Question: Did he mislead you?
Brown: “I don’t want to comment on our conversations.”
Question: Your ultimate goal is to send Alex Palow to Formula 1?
Brown: “My ultimate goal is Alex is a McLaren Racing driver and we have the advantage of having different teams. Of course, he will have an opportunity that we can give him. The Formula 1 opportunity, I think, is what attracts him.”
Q: Do you have any contact with Alex Palou after the end of the IndyCar season or are you waiting for it to be over?
Brown: “Wait. I think they should resolve the situation.”
Benjamin Pedersen is the first driver to be honored by Indy Lights. in IndyCar for next season as AJ Foyt Racing confirmed on Wednesday that he will be part of their 2023 roster.
Pedersen, a 23-year-old Danish-US citizen, spent last season driving the full Indy Lights schedule for HMD Motorsports. Linus Lundqvist, his teammate, won the Lights title and Pedersen finished fifth in the final standings. Pedersen earned his only win earlier this month when he led every lap after pole position in Portland.
Pedersen also drove four races for HMD in 2021, finishing second in his debut. Pedersen came to the attention of AJ Foyt Racing team president Larry Foyt through a “trusted colleague” and Pedersen spent most of last season keeping an eye on the IndyCar team.
His progress in IndyCar is ahead of all four drivers who have finished ahead of him in the Indy Lights standings, including champion Lundqvist.
Glad to join @AJFoytRacing in 2023 full-time, multi-year program!
Pretty surreal moment – but together with everyone involved, we worked so hard on it.
— Benjamin Pedersen (@BPedersen24) September 28, 2022