Alex Palou believes he has to make the switch to Formula 1 for 2024, or he risks becoming too old to join the championship, after winning the 2023 IndyCar title.
The Chip Ganassi driver claimed his second IndyCar crown on Sunday after winning the Grand Prix of Portland, his fifth victory of the season.
“The door is never completely closed,” Palou told the media. “Obviously, but at the same time I’m getting older and if, after winning the titles in 2021 and now 2023, there has not been a real and good opportunity, it will be difficult for a door to open, because it will be difficult to repeat this.
“I’m not waiting impatiently for F1 either. The position I have is very privileged, in one of the best teams with everything I need to fight for races and championships, and it would be difficult to leave.”
Palou opens up on McLaren contract saga
Palou had signed with IndyCar team Arrow McLaren for the 2024 season, who are associated with McLaren‘s F1 team. The decision represented a chance for him to maintain his IndyCar seat whilst getting one foot into the door of the F1 world should any future seats have opened up for the UK-based team.
However, news broke in the summer of 2023 that the Spanish driver had negated his contract and would not be joining McLaren in 2024, leading to the team to file legal action against him in London.
Palou had previously competed in practice for McLaren in F1 during the 2022 United States Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas and a private test in his home nation, Spain.
Whilst he did not say much about the reason for his U-turn he did explain that limited chances was a factor, along with Arrow McLaren scoring 284 points fewer than Chip Ganassi and going winless in 2023.
“More than that is because there was no real opportunity in F1,” Palou continued. “That explains everything. But of course it also helps to have the best car in IndyCar.”
“I already said that when I can everything will be said,” Palou added. “But yes, I am very happy here. There are things off the track that have to be fixed before I say anything, when it’s time I’ll do it.”
Palou’s target for 2024
So far, one prize has managed to evade Palou in the USA’s top open-wheel class – victory at the Indy 500.
The 26-year-old came incredibly close in 2021, finishing just 0.4 seconds behind Helio Castroneves after losing the lead with two laps to go. In the two attempts since he has not managed to improve on that second place and it’s one of the targets for 2024.
“With the [Indy] 500 we can improve quite a lot,” Palou said. “For the rest, it’s more difficult. That’s why I’m enjoying it so much this year.
“Last year we only won one race and this year we’ve won five, but that’s not normal. I don’t know when the next victory, championship or year will be so competitive. Every podium tastes like glory and every win even more.”
The 2023 IndyCar season concludes this Sunday at Laguna Seca, where Palou will look for a sixth win of the year.