McLaren CEO Zak Brown distributed a letter to the Arrow McLaren IndyCar Team late Friday detailing that Alex Palou no longer has intentions to join the team in 2024.
The 2021 champion reportedly informed Brown of his decision recently, despite multiple assurances that he would be joining the Papaya squad in one form or another next season.
The contents of the letter, which was first reported by the Associated Press, contained pointed language from Brown that made clear his disappointment with the newest development.
“We dedicated a lot of time, money and resources preparing to welcome Alex [Palou] into our team because we believed in him and were looking forward to IndyCar wins with him,” Brown wrote in the letter to the team.
“Coming out of his team dispute last fall, we were assured by Alex of his commitment to Arrow McLaren reflected in the contract he entered into with us.
“We have paid him a significant first payment toward his 2024 season in addition to the millions of dollars toward developing him in our Formula 1 testing program and in his reserve driver role with a potential drive in F1 in the future.
“Unfortunately, it now appears our belief, commitment, investment and trust in Alex was misplaced as it is not being reciprocated.”
The news was unexpected, both in the timing and the method with which it was disseminated.
Palou was famously involved in a messy contract dispute last year, in which Chip Ganassi Racing claimed it had exercised a contract extension with the driver, and Palou claimed he had signed with McLaren.
The battle went all the way to court, and eventually an agreement was reached where Palou continued to drive for Ganassi this season while being allowed to test with McLaren on a few occasions.
Those tests included a couple outings in Formula 1 machinery, which is a prized opportunity that is not usually offered unless the driver will be able to contribute to the team in the future.
Despite Palou purposely saying next to nothing publicly all season about his contract status for 2024, it is apparent from the letter Brown sent to the team that an agreement was in place for him to join McLaren in 2024.
Brown wrote that he still expects Palou to honor his deal for next season, but is already working on options that don’t include the Spaniard.
One possible scenario that started this latest round of contract changes is that Chip Ganassi, who still wants Palou on his team despite the dispute last year, offered Palou a hefty sum of money to keep him where he is in the #10.
Ganassi and his team do not comment on contracts until they are finalized, however, and offered no comment on this situation.
It’s not hard to imagine that he is pleased with his young driver, who appears to be well on his way to earning his second championship in three years.
Based on how last year’s contract talks progressed, there may well be more twists to the story yet before everything is finalized.
However it shakes out, there are numerous other driver agreements that have been delayed, waiting to see where Palou ends up. Some of those may well start falling into place soon on account of the latest developments.