Formula 1 may come to regret Alex Palou’s decision to cut ties with McLaren as the sport may never see the driver, dubbed “more complete than Max Verstappen”, line up on the grid.
Although Palou was expected to race for McLaren in the IndyCar series next season, dovetailing that with Formula 1 reserve driver commitments, that relationship broke down after the Spaniard opted to stay with Chip Ganassi Racing.
Instead of winning races with Palou, and potentially fielding him in Formula 1 in the years to come, McLaren are suing the driver for a reported $20-30 million in damages stemming from him reneging on his deal.
Alex Palou v Max Verstappen for the best ‘alien’ award
That, McLaren CEO Zak Brown says, is probably it for Palou’s Formula 1 story.
“I think in Formula 1, there’s so much you have to do as a driver to be a complete race car driver,” said the American. “He certainly has demonstrated in IndyCar and his time with us that he is a racing driver, but I’m not sure we’ll ever find out [if he could race in F1].”
That’s a pity for Formula 1 as the two-time IndyCar champion’s rival Agustín Canapino believes he’s the “best driver in the world”.
Mundo Deportivo quotes the Argentine as having told FoxSports’ Argentinian edition: “Palou is outstanding because for me he is the best driver in the world, in my opinion. If he is not the best, he is among the three best.
“In my opinion, Palou is more complete than Verstappen. What Palou does in IndyCar for me is really like being an extraterrestrial. But it is a very subjective opinion.
“Verstappen is another alien too. Don’t let Verstappen’s followers criticise me because I have Verstappen in limbo too.
“But for me, the fact of racing on ovals makes IndyCar drivers different. Because for me the oval is the absolute extreme and F1 doesn’t have that.
“That’s why, for me, a driver like Palou, who sets the standard difference in all types of circuits, in all types of disciplines, makes him an extraterrestrial.”
Palou admits F1 door closing is ‘just sad’
Although Palou initially kept his own council after Brown broke the news that he wouldn’t be joining McLaren in 2024, the 26-year-old eventually shared a bit of his side of the story.
“I think someday I’ll write a story, and maybe a book, so everybody knows what was going on since ’22 and ’23, each month. But yeah, for now, I’m not gonna give a lot of information,” he said.
“I think maybe after the season, I can sit down and explain a lot more, I don’t think it would help anybody or anyone to start now.”
As for Brown’s comment that Formula 1 may never see the Spaniard line up on the grid, Palou said: “I would say it’s just sad. I would have liked to have done things differently.
“But it’s not been that way. And I’m just sad the way it’s worked out.
“But yeah, I cannot really change it and just change everything and colour it and make it a little more nice. It’s not that way.”