Driving a Formula 1 single-seater is the dream of everyone who has grown up in the world of motorsports, but it is something that only a privileged few can make a reality. The competition is tough, and sometimes unfair, but there is always room for talent and work, as has happened with Alex Palou , who after becoming IndyCar champion and going through several lesser-known categories, finally made his debut in an official session of the Great Circus.
The Spaniard made his debut with the McLaren team after a legal dispute for his services in the American championship with Chip Ganassi Racing in the first free practice of the grand prix that takes place at the Circuit of the Americas, and there he was able to make a real comparison between the current cars of both modalities.
“Both are single-seater racing, but they are very, very different. It’s like another league, of course, the size of the team, which is crazy compared to an IndyCar one,” explained the Catalan. “The budget too, we’ve been running IndyCar with the same chassis for the last 10 or 11 seasons, they only change it every two years with updates, so it’s very different.
“Obviously this [Formula 1] car has a lot more speed, but I think as a racing driver, you get used to it,” Palou said. “It’s more the car’s ability with downforce to go fast in the corners and brake so late, it’s crazy.”
The Spaniard acknowledged that his first feelings with the MCL36 were good, but that it was nothing like the tests he carried out with last season’s car in Barcelona and Austria just a few weeks ago with Patricio O’Ward .
“It’s fast, it’s crazy, I was lucky enough to try the 2021 car before, so that already gave me the feeling of a Formula 1 car, but here, you have the traffic, you don’t want to impede anyone else,” he said.
“And you have a car that is not yours, so I was trying to take care of it, trying not to get in trouble with the people who are going to race this weekend,” he continued. “I felt like the car was able to [brake] so much that I went too far in a few moments, which I think is good, it’s better to go too far and then go back, if you only have an hour [of practice].”
“And I knew we only had one set of tires, so I had to do it all in two laps. I couldn’t wait too long, so that’s probably why [I over-braked]. What would make it better? I think putting in more laps and having another set of tires at the end would have helped, but our program today was not to go fast, but to get data for the team, and we did it,” said Palou after being 17th in FP1.
The Spaniard has not only competed in IndyCar, but also spent time in Japanese Super Formula, where he finished third and took one win in seven races in 2019: “It’s closer to a Formula 1 than an IndyCar, but that It was a long time ago. I think I’ve learned a lot in my IndyCar career since then, I’ve gotten more out of it than out of Super Formula.”
“Both are light, with a lot of downforce, Super Formula lacked a lot of power, but even so, they are cars that are closer than the IndyCar ones,” explained the Barcelona driver.
Despite the fact that he is now contesting the American championship and being Spanish, in his childhood he had different tastes from those of his native country: “I had Michael Schumacher [as an idol], when I was at Ferrari, I think he had about seven or eight He was the guy I looked up to, and IndyCar was following him, but I think it was a little later, then I was more focused on myself and other drivers.”
Fernando Alonso was an inspiration to all young Spaniards for his two world championships in the mid-2000s, and Palou had the opportunity to speak with him: “I know him from the Indy 500 in 2020, and then we have been in contact He’s a great guy, amazing driver.”
“He was happy to see me here on the track, he asked me about the neck, if I was ready or not, and I said yes, not to worry. I had the chance to drive an older car, so it was fine.” the Catalan of McLaren.
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