NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Fernando Alonso created this mess, didn’t he?
Or was it IndyCar champion Alex Palou?
Perhaps the blame should lie with McLaren Racing chief Zak Brown? After all, he’s the one storing just about everyone who can drive a race car in a silly season of motorsport in which the domino effects span three series, across the world and in at least a courtroom.
Palou may have started it all a month ago. Chip Ganassi said he had taken the team option on the Spaniard’s contract for next season but the driver denounced the team’s press release and said he would not return in 2023. Minutes later, McLaren said it had signed Palou.
Ganassi is now suing Palou, who is adamant he will be with McLaren next season, and the entire IndyCar paddock has watched wide-eyed as each race weekend brings a new twist to the legal drama.
But Alonso then upped the ante when Aston Martin blindsided the Formula 1 world by announcing on Monday that it had signed the two-time world champion. Alonso had not felt it necessary to inform his current team, who assumed he was returning to Alpine for one more year.
Alpine then had to rush and said late the next day that it was promoting its reserve driver to Alonso’s seat. Oscar Piastri then fired a Palou – his tweet refusing Alpine’s F1 seat was worded similarly to Palou’s – and said he would not be driving for the team.
McLaren have yet to confirm they have signed the 21-year-old Australian, but all contract documents appear to have been filed on the deal even before Alonso dropped out of Alpine. Now McLaren is working on a takeover with current F1 driver Daniel Ricciardo, Palou is in a legal limbo and Felix Rosenqvist has no idea if he keeps his IndyCar seat with Arrow McLaren SP or is sent to Formula E and replaced by Palou.
With just four races remaining in the most-watched IndyCar season in decades and a six-driver championship fight, the entire paddock is obsessed with this contract drama and who drives where next season.
“Hopefully all the drivers are doing well and can drive for whoever they want. But we’ll see,” said Colton Herta, who has already tested the McLaren F1 car this year and is expected to drive a first session. testing during a race weekend this year.
Of course, Herta’s plans were drawn up before Brown recruited all the young talent he could get his hands on, and now even McLaren’s full roster is dizzying. Here’s what we know:
ALONSO: Held the option on his contract with Alpine, left for Aston Martin despite not being offered a multi-year contract.
PIASTRI: Became available for McLaren to sign ahead of Alonso’s move because Alpine apparently failed to file contract documents on him for 2023.
PALOU: Jumped on a whim to join McLaren for an F1 opportunity. If he was able to exit his race at Ganassi for 2023, he would eliminate Rosenqvist from the McLaren IndyCar lineup and also become McLaren’s reserve F1 driver.
PATO O’WARD: Under contract with McLaren in IndyCar, should test in F1 next season.
HERTA: Should continue testing for McLaren in F1, could still do FP1 in F1 this season depending on how the Palou situation is settled and/or if McLaren has access to Piastri before the end of 2022.
ALEXANDER ROSSI: Signed to leave Andretti Autosport and join the McLaren IndyCar lineup next season.
ROSENQVIST: Announced with McLaren at the beginning of June an agreement to continue with the team, in IndyCar or with the Formula E team, it will start next season. Sitting in limbo awaiting a Palou resolution, but desperate to keep his IndyCar seat.
If there’s any sympathy to show in this saga, it should go to Rosenqvist, who got caught in Brown’s attempt to build a deep bench of drivers. Although he may have initially accepted the move to Formula E, a fourth-place finish at the Indianapolis 500 sparked a revival in performance and a desire to hang on to his seat.
Ahead of Sunday’s race in Nashville, there were signs the Swede was offering himself to other teams if Brown moves forward with the Formula E plan. But McLaren hold the 2023 option on Rosenqvist’s contract and will likely keep it until the Palou case is settled; by then, all the IndyCar seats could be full and Rosenqvist would have nothing left.
The situation has been exhausting for Rosenqvist, who, like just about everyone, is tired of talking about contracts.
“It’s between me and Zak to be honest,” he said in Nashville of his future. “I prefer not to talk about contracts. That’s why they are contracts, because they are made for you and the other signing party. It’s not for the public to know. »
But will he drive for another IndyCar team if Palou takes his place at McLaren?
“That we will see,” he replied.
As for Brown, well, he’s been uncharacteristically quiet since the Palou and Piastri situations erupted, but he really wants every driver he’s signed in the McLaren family. All are moving parts in his master plan to restore McLaren to prominence in multiple motorsport series around the world.
As Brown gathers his stash of pilots, everyone remains puzzled as to how it will all pan out and how much money it will cost in the end.
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