Potential Departures Threaten Ganassi’s Dominance in IndyCar 2023

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Ganassi, the leading team in IndyCar, faces the risk of losing its standout drivers for the remainder of the 2023 season. As the halfway point of the season approaches at Mid-Ohio, Ganassi’s Spanish star Palou holds a commanding lead of 74 points over his Swedish teammate Ericsson.

Palou has already matched his win count from his championship-winning year with CGR-Honda in 2021, while Ericsson, the winner of the season opener in St. Petersburg, narrowly missed out on back-to-back Indy 500 victories by a fraction of a second.

However, Chip Ganassi finds himself in a conundrum as both drivers have different contractual situations unfolding at the moment.

Alex Palou, McLaren testing at Hungaroring
Photo by: McLaren

Palou is being courted by Formula 1

Reports suggest that Palou has a deal in place with McLaren for the 2024 season, seeing it as his pathway to Formula 1. The additional perk of driving for McLaren’s expanding IndyCar team, in collaboration with Arrow, offers him the opportunity to wait for his chance in the premier motorsport category.

It’s worth recalling that last year, Ganassi filed a lawsuit against Palou when McLaren issued a press release claiming his signing for 2023. The matter was resolved, allowing Palou to remain with CGR for the final year of his contract while also securing a test and reserve role with McLaren’s Formula 1 squad.

Palou recently completed a test at the Hungaroring, alongside race driver Oscar Piastri, and had the chance to participate in FP1 at COTA last year. Clearly, his aspirations lie in Formula 1, and McLaren’s investment in him reflects their belief in his talent.

When asked about his F1 running, Palou expressed his satisfaction, stating, “It’s been working so far – I love it. They are very demanding in terms of driving technique. They push you to improve, which greatly contributes to driver development. It’s like going there and receiving lessons on how to brake. It’s a great experience, especially considering that I’m still learning how to drive the car properly. It pushes me to challenge myself.”

Alex Palou, McLaren F1 reserve driver
Photo by: Sam Bloxham / F1 Flow Images

Throughout the contractual uncertainty, Palou has maintained a composed demeanor and continues to deliver outstanding performances on the track. His remarkable off-track attitude, combined with his undeniable speed and resilience, solidifies his status as IndyCar’s leading performer. It is clear that he is a deserving candidate for an opportunity in Formula 1, and there’s always a chance that another team might intervene to make it happen sooner rather than later.

There are also rumors that Ganassi has made a counter-offer to Palou, offering him a lucrative seven-figure salary to stay with the team. One could argue that this proposal presents a better opportunity for Palou to achieve short-term success than moving to the still-developing IndyCar team of Arrow McLaren.

When asked this week about revealing his racing plans for next year, Palou replied, “Honestly, I don’t know. But, yeah, that day will come. Maybe two months, three, four. I don’t know. Maybe after the season ends or even later. We’ll see. Yeah, that day will come. It will be exciting, I guess.”

Alex Palou, McLaren MCL36
Photo by: Glenn Dunbar / F1 Flow Images

As for Ericsson, he seeks fair compensation as an Indy 500 winner

In contrast, CGR’s other prized asset, Ericsson, has already scratched his Formula

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about IndyCar driver contracts

Q: Is Ganassi at risk of losing its standout drivers for the 2024 season?

A: Yes, there is a possibility that Ganassi might lose both of its standout drivers, Alex Palou and Marcus Ericsson, for the 2024 season due to different contractual scenarios playing out. Palou is being courted by Formula 1 and is understood to have a deal with McLaren, while Ericsson is seeking fair compensation as an Indy 500 winner.

Q: What happened with Palou’s contract last year?

A: Last year, there was a legal dispute between Ganassi and Palou when McLaren issued a press release claiming that Palou had signed with them for 2023. The matter was resolved, allowing Palou to stay with CGR for the final year of his contract while also securing a test and reserve role with McLaren’s Formula 1 team.

Q: What are Palou’s aspirations?

A: Palou sees Formula 1 as his best route and has a deal with McLaren for the 2024 season. He believes it offers him the opportunity to drive for their IndyCar team while waiting for his chance in Formula 1. Palou has been enthusiastic about his F1 experiences, finding them beneficial for his development as a driver.

Q: What is Ericsson’s situation?

A: Marcus Ericsson, Ganassi’s other standout driver, is seeking to be offered a salary commensurate with his performance and achievements. As an Indy 500 winner, he believes he should be treated as a top driver in the series. However, there seems to be a discrepancy between Ericsson’s expectations and the team’s view, leading to frustration in their negotiations.

Q: Are there any potential replacements for Palou and Ericsson?

A: If Ganassi were to lose both drivers, they could potentially trim back to three cars and promote drivers from their current roster, such as Marcus Armstrong or Takuma Sato. Another option could be to develop young American talent, with David Malukas showing promise. Alternatively, they could consider bringing back McLaren’s Felix Rosenqvist, who previously raced for CGR.

Q: How does Scott Dixon fit into this situation?

A: Scott Dixon, an accomplished driver for Ganassi, remains a constant presence and continues to perform at a high level. If Palou and Ericsson were to leave, Ganassi could rely on Dixon’s expertise. It is speculated that if two Ganassi rides become available, there could be a busy and intriguing IndyCar silly season with potential driver changes and negotiations.

More about IndyCar driver contracts

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