Alex Palou described Formula 1 machinery as “insane” compared to an IndyCar after making his FP1 debut for McLaren at the United States Grand Prix.
The 2021 IndyCar champion completed one of McLaren’s two mandatory rookie practice sessions at Circuit of the Americas, ahead of Pato O’Ward doing the other in Abu Dhabi. While both have driven the 2021 car this year, it was Palou’s first taste of the new generation of car and he admits it’s a wildly different concept compared to an IndyCar.
“Both are racing cars, and then it’s tough to put more stuff in,” Palou said. “They are really, really different. It’s like another league, but obviously it’s everything — like the team size is crazy compared to an IndyCar team; the budget as well — we’ve been racing in IndyCar with the same chassis for the past 10 or 11 years, and they change it every two years with updates.
“So it’s very different. Obviously this car has a lot more speed, but I think as a racing driver you get used to the speed. It’s more the capability of the car with the downforce to go fast in the corners, to brake so deep, it’s just insane.”
After getting his first taste of an F1 weekend, Palou says a chance to race is something he would jump at but the 25-year-old is not actively seeking a drive on the grid.
“I still smile the same in IndyCar, I would say — well, maybe not the same, but I still smile a lot! Maybe today it’s a little bit more. It’s double, but obviously as a racing driver that likes motorsport, F1 is where you want to go.
“Throughout my career I realized F1 was not a place I could really achieve, and I went through IndyCar and we achieved that. Funnily enough, getting that IndyCar championship gave me the opportunity to be here today. I take it; I embrace every single second of it. I’m not chasing it. Obviously if somebody gives me a ride I’ll drive it — that’s the ultimate dream — but it’s not that I’m focused on it.
“I have a career in IndyCar, we’ve been successful and I want to get as many championships as possible. But if there’s a car, I’ll drive it.”
Walking out of the McLaren hospitality after his session, Palou was embraced by Marcus Ericsson and Conor Daly who were there in support, and the Spaniard believes it’s reflective of the wider attitude from the IndyCar paddock.
“There’s quite a lot texting me and I saw some messages now after practice asking me how it is,” he said. “I think the community in IndyCar is really good. We support each other a lot and we always want to see each other succeeding — not in IndyCar, outside that! I don’t want them to succeed in IndyCar, I want them to succeed somewhere else, but I think it’s cool the community we have.”
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