Palou focused on keeping IndyCar season sizzling while future plans simmer

ROAD AMERICA, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA - JUNE 18: #10: Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda winner video call at Road America on Sunday June 18, 2023 in Elkhart Lake, United States of America. (Photo by LAT Images)
ROAD AMERICA, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA - JUNE 18: #10: Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda winner video call at Road America on Sunday June 18, 2023 in Elkhart Lake, United States of America. (Photo by LAT Images)

The competitive nature of the NTT IndyCar Series makes domination by one driver a rare feat — particularly a run like Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou has been on, winning three of the last four races and establishing a sizable early point lead toward a second IndyCar championship heading into this weekend’s Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio. Yet while obviously happy with the way things are going, the Spaniard isn’t taking anything for granted.

“I wouldn’t say that it’s dominant, honestly,” he said of his season to date. “I would say that the points that we have now look better than what our races have been. We are just able to maximize everything well. Others, they couldn’t really maximize everything. It still counts. We still have that gap and all those points, which it’s great. But I don’t think it’s dominating. It’s just maximizing.

“I just think that everything is working really good for us now. I feel like we were as strong as we are now at the beginning of the season, but we had some ups and downs during the races. Long Beach was a clear example where we were running in the top four, got caught up on an accident, dropped back to 15th and still finished P5.

“Momentum in motorsports matters a lot for driver confidence, team confidence, mechanic confidence. Everybody want to get the win, just like you are asking for more and more. It just gets better and better. Hopefully we can keep the wave big or even bigger.”

Palou may have been at the front of the IndyCar pack a lot lately, but he says his results are more about capitalizing on opportunities than dominant performance. Motorsport Images

That wave might seem all the important to Palou given the uncertainty over his future beyond this season, as he continues to explore opportunities to race in Formula 1. However, he says he doesn’t think those decisions hinge on how his 2023 IndyCar season pans out.

“Honestly, I don’t think that by winning more races we will get one seat or the other seat, one seat in F1,” Palou said. “I don’t think getting different results will affect our season for next year.”

Palou emphasized that he felt no pressure to decide what his future plans will be. Asked when thought an announcement might come, he said, “Honestly, I don’t know. That day will come — maybe two months, three, four. I don’t know. Maybe once the season is over, maybe later. We’ll see.”

IndyCar setup sheet: Mid-Ohio

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The prospect of stepping away from a winning IndyCar seat to one in F1 — like the McLaren he tested in Hungary earlier this month — that is less of a front-runner might seem an odd choice for someone in Palou’s current position, but he says that there are levels of satisfaction to be gained as a driver that are unique to both categories.

“I mean, I would say it’s a different feeling,” he explained. “Obviously everybody wants to win whatever sport you are in. You know that in F1 basically you need to be in one or maximum two teams to be able to win, otherwise you’re fighting just for points or P15, whatever.

“It’s a different mindset. I would just say that the beauty of IndyCar is that everybody can win because you have the same tools as everybody. In F1, maybe the beauty, it’s different. It’s just that you are in the pinnacle of motorsport, you’re developing a car together with a big factory. It’s just a different mentality, I would say. I wouldn’t say there’s more satisfaction in one than the other.”

For now, he’s focusing on the challenge ahead at Mid-Ohio — which could include rain at some points during the weekend.

“Yeah, I mean, that’s going to be tough, honestly, both if we start on wets and then suddenly we have to qualify on drys. The opposite, as well,” Palou admitted. “Unfortunately we don’t really have a lot of practice on the wets, so I think everybody is, let’s say, guessing a little bit both for what the car needs and what the driver needs from a wet setup. Everybody is on the same scenario.

“I remember the Indy GP last year where we started on wets. There were some cars that were a bit more set up for the wet conditions, and they were flying. But as soon as it dried, they started to get slower. Yeah, I think it’s going to be an interesting weekend for sure.”

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