SINGAPORE: The McLaren Formula 1 team is bracing for the absence of their reserve driver, Alex Palou, at the upcoming Singapore Grand Prix as the legal dispute between the driver and the team escalates.
This unexpected turn of events comes despite Alex Palou’s contractual obligation to be present at every Grand Prix following the conclusion of the IndyCar season, as confirmed by McLaren Chief Executive Zak Brown.
The legal conflict erupted after Alex Palou rejected a move to McLaren’s IndyCar operation for the 2024 season. Brown insists that Palou holds a valid contract with McLaren and has already received an advance on his salary for the upcoming year.
Alex Palou, who recently clinched his second IndyCar championship, is currently competing in the final round of the American-based single-seater series at Laguna Seca. He had been expected to join McLaren in Singapore, where he serves as the reserve driver.
Alex Palou’s association with McLaren took shape this season after an impressive FP1 appearance at the 2022 United States Grand Prix in Austin. He also participated in a three-day test with the team at the Hungaroring in June, alongside Oscar Piastri and long-serving test and development driver Oliver Turvey.
Another FP1 outing was on the horizon for Palou, but with the relationship between the driver and the team deteriorating, Brown expressed doubt about Palou’s presence in Singapore.
The breakdown in relations between McLaren and Palou is expected to open the door for IndyCar star and former Red Bull junior Pato O’Ward, to secure an FP1 opportunity before the end of 2023.
O’Ward, who has a history with McLaren dating back to 2021, previously participated in the first practice at the 2022 season finale in Abu Dhabi. In the immediate future, McLaren can call upon Mercedes reserve driver Mick Schumacher if either Piastri or teammate Lando Norris are unable to race in Singapore.
The young German, son of seven-time World Champion Michael Schumacher, conducted a private test with the team at Portimao in July, making him a viable replacement option for McLaren.