We will all write about it. It dominated the headlines in IndyCar all summer. It outshadowed any on track result since early July. The Alex Palou saga finally has an answer. After months of speculation, rumors and questions from the media, Alex Palou is staying with Chip Ganassi Racing through his original contract that expires at the end of the 2023 season.
Almost everyone wins. Alex Palou gets to stay in the seat he won the 2021 IndyCar Championship and 2022 season finale race at Laguna Seca. Chip Ganassi keeps a champion in his car for another season and Felix Rosenqvist is now safe through 2023 with Arrow McLaren SP. Palou will get to test an F1 car and could still be on the move elsewhere this time next year.
The media got a juicy storyline full of speculation and layers. It started with word in May that Alex Palou wanted a restructured contract coming off a championship in IndyCar and his first three wins of his career. On July 12, Chip Ganassi Racing made an announcement that they were exercising the option that they had on the series champion to retain him for 2023. Palou and McLaren countered that statement an hour or so later that Palou was not quoted in that statement and he would be racing with McLaren in 2023. At the time, it was unsure if he would be a third car at Arrow McLaren SP or Formula E.
Every interview for the remainder of the season that Palou did, he was asked about his future. From media bullpens that seemingly went away during this, to other drivers and teammates being asked, everyone wanted the answer to the biggest offseason question, where would Palou be in 2023?
This had current Arrow McLaren SP driver Felix Rosenqvist guessing where he would drive in 2023. Would it be in an IndyCar for Arrow McLaren SP, would he stay with McLaren and move over to Formula E, or would the team allow him to pursue other options in the IndyCar paddock. It had been announced a month prior that he would be with McLaren in 2023, but the release did not say in what discipline, and as we all learned through this, sometimes contracts can be changed or a driver could be released to open the door for another. In an interview with Rosenqvist on the day of the release stating he would stay with Arrow McLaren SP, he was unsure in which series it would be, and didn’t seem to be as chipper as a driver should be.
It took just three days after the season finale to get answers to the two biggest questions in the offseason that together go hand in hand. Palou and Ganassi announced on Wednesday morning that the Palou would stay in the #10 seat for one more year, less than 72 hours removed from putting that car in victory circle in a dominating performance at Laguna Seca. Immediately following, Arrow McLaren SP announced that Rosenqvist would remain in the #7 Arrow McLaren SP Chevy for 2023.
This seemingly leaves the biggest story line now in the offseason of if Colton Herta goes to Formula 1 in 2023 or not. As of today, I just don’t see it likely to happen. Michael Andretti and Gainbridge seem to want Herta around for the remainder of his career. Herta had a down year, but at 22 years old, would seemingly have another 20 years left in his career. Andretti and Gainbridge would have to fork over a ton of money to keep Herta in IndyCar, which is something they have seemed willing to do. If Herta were to exit to F1 however, Michael Andretti would be left to scramble to find a replacement. If you remove Herta from the roster, along with Alexander Rossi who is heading to Arrow McLaren SP, Andretti Autosport would have zero wins and zero pole positions in their driver lineup with Romain Grosjean, Devlin DeFrancesco and the addition of Kyle Kirkwood. That is the worst case scenario, but the team could call on the services of Oliver Askew or Santino Ferrucci to take over the seat vacated by Herta.
The news on Wednesday is obviously great for Rosenqvist. At times in 2022 he showed he could be a contender for podiums, however, he found plenty of inconsistency along the way. I question how much that had to do with his mindset with no knowledge of where he would be in the 2023 season. For Palou, the news of him leaving was particularly tough on the team. Several crew members on the team were not particularly happy with the news. Now, with a win to end the season and the news that Palou will be back, you hope that it's been cured and the team can go back to challenging for the Astor Cup in 2023.
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