Zak Brown reveals ‘elbows out’ strategy after latest McLaren contract saga

Michelle Foster
McLaren IndyCar racing driver Alex Palou.

IndyCar Champion Alex Palou, racing with McLaren.

Embroiled in yet another contract saga, this time in IndyCar, McLaren CEO Zak Brown makes no apologies for his “elbows out” strategy to sign the best drivers to his teams.

Having come out on top in last year’s contractual dispute involving Oscar Piastri in Formula 1, McLaren didn’t get the IndyCar driver they wanted, Alex Palou, at least not for 2023 but he was thought to be joining them next season.

Last July McLaren announced Chip Ganassi Racing driver Palou had signed with McLaren for the 2023 season only for CGR to declare he was their driver before an agreement was reached between the three parties that would see Palou race for Chip Ganassi Racing in IndyCar but test with McLaren in F1.

Zak Brown: You’ve just got to kind of do it to get to that level

But in 2024, or so it was thought, he’d be a McLaren IndyCar driver.

Until he wasn’t, Brown revealing last week that the IndyCar championship leader had “no intention of honouring his contract with the team for 2024 and thereafter”.

Palou’s management, Monaco Increase Management, has since parted ways with the driver while CGR team owner Chip Ganassi hit out at McLaren and Brown for “playing the victim” and blamed the “interference of McLaren” for this entire saga.

The American team owner added: “Simply stated, the position of McLaren INDYCAR regarding our driver is inaccurate and wrong; he remains under contract with CGR.”

But while he was not specifically commenting on the latest instalment in the Palou saga, Brown has made it clear that his strategy is to go hard for those he wants for his teams – drivers included.

“You’ve got to get your elbows out,” he told The Race recently. “And I think every racing series has to start with getting the best drivers in the car, and to do what it takes.

“It’s funny, the people that are sometimes critical, it’s exactly what they’ve done to get to where they are.

“We’ve kind of broken into the top three and four in IndyCar, from a team that was not there previously, and we’ve had to make some aggressive moves to get Gavin Ward in, to get these drivers in.

“But I can tell you growing up watching these guys, they’ve done the same thing over the years themselves, and it’s just kind of when the new kid on the block shows up, that’s it.

“The establishment is kind of like a duopoly. And now it’s three or four teams in there.

“You have to do it with talent. Good news is I think once you build it, you don’t have to do it every day. You’ve just got to kind of do it to get to that level.

PlanetF1.com recommends

F1 driver contracts: What is the current contract status of every driver on the 2023 grid?

Five great F1 career moves: Hamilton to Mercedes, Schumacher to Ferrari and more

“I don’t get my elbows out just for the sake of getting elbows out. But we’ve got to have the best driver line-ups in each racing series, the best talent in each racing series.

“Once you kind of get that set, then you don’t need to do it on a daily basis. But we’re having to elevate ourselves in IndyCar and we’re having to catch up here. And it’s something that hopefully we don’t have to [do constantly].

“It’s not always fun. Sometimes it’s fun! But it’s all done with a purpose, to get McLaren to the front.”

Palou has yet to comment on his contract situation with reports suggesting he could yet be heading to Formula 1 but with a team other than McLaren.

Read next: F1 silly season: Predicting the full grid the for the F1 2024 campaign