Alex Palou was supposedly staying with Chip Ganassi Racing for the 2023 IndyCar season, ending the rumor that he would be joining Arrow McLaren SP in their third car. Instead, he is supposedly heading to McLaren.
To say that IndyCar silly season kicked into high gear on Tuesday would be an understatement, given everything that went on involving Chip Ganassi Racing, McLaren, and Alex Palou.
Chip Ganassi Racing first confirmed that Palou was set to return to the team for the 2023 season, as they announced that they had picked up the option on his contract to keep him behind the wheel of the #10 Honda for what would be a third year.
But a few hours later, Palou, who won the championship in his first season with the team last year, refuted that report and accused the team of faking the quote attributed to him in their press release.
Minutes later, McLaren announced that they had signed the 25-year-old Spaniard for next year, and Palou went on to confirm the news. The specific series for which they signed him wasn’t revealed by either party.
However, shortly thereafter, Chip Ganassi Racing responded by insisting that Palou remains under contract with their organization for the 2023 season, adding confusion to an already confusing situation.
But believe it or not, one IndyCar driver might have seen this whole thing coming.
Back in early June, after Arrow McLaren SP made it official that they had signed current Andretti Autosport Alexander Rossi to drive alongside Pato O’Ward in the 2023 season, the focus turned to the team’s third seat.
Would Felix Rosenqvist continue driving for the team next year, or would he be replaced, perhaps by current Ed Carpenter Racing driver Rinus VeeKay, whose name had previously been linked to the seat in the event Rosenqvist’s contract was not renewed?
According to Chip Ganassi Racing’s Tony Kanaan, neither one of these two drivers would be in the third Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet next year.
Also according to the 2004 IndyCar champion and 2013 Indy 500 winner, “people will fall off their chairs when they know”.
Given how this situation has unfolded, it’s safe to assume that Kanaan knew exactly what was in store.
Since Kanaan posted this tweet nearly a month and a half ago, McLaren did re-sign Rosenqvist, but the news actually fit in line perfectly with what he had stated.
The 30-year-old Swede’s new deal does not tie him to the organization’s IndyCar team; the announcement left the door open for him to potentially switch to Formula E, with McLaren set to acquire the Mercedes-EQ team after the 2021-2022 season.
While Palou had stated last month, amid the rumors linking him to McLaren, that he hadn’t been in talks with other teams and saw no reason not to leave Chip Ganassi Racing, it was, for lack of a better description, a typical response from a driver not allowed to discuss specifics of his contract.
He even admitted that he wasn’t allowed to go into detail, which led many to believe that his situation was far from over.
Spoiler alert: it was indeed far from over. And it still might be.
But what makes this all more interesting is that, given the fact that Kanaan saw it all coming, wouldn’t Chip Ganassi Racing have seen it all coming as well? Wouldn’t they have known the situation all along?
They should have been among those least blindsided by Tuesday’s news.
So why are they now insisting that Palou remains under contract with the team in 2023?
Could it be a simple formality to effectively force an expensive contract buyout before his McLaren move is officially confirmed (whatever “confirmed” even means anymore)?
But then why is Palou throwing the team under the bus?
Some reports have suggested that, given the mess created by this situation, Chip Ganassi Racing could opt to replace Palou as early as this weekend’s race in Toronto.
Those reports name Kanaan as the likely replacement, in the event that this unprecedented move does occur — another element of the whole June 2 tweet that makes the situation even more intriguing.