The champion of the 2021 IndyCar season was someone highly valued in the middle of the course, and it is that Alex Palou came to sign for McLaren to compete with them in the American category next season, but his current team, Chip Ganassi Racing, He sued because the resolution of his contract was not confirmed.
After a few months of controversy, the Spaniard ended up assuring that he would continue to belong to the American team, but would also hold some events outside of IndyCar with the Woking team. And that was how the Barcelona native tested the MCL35M from last Formula 1 season in his own home, in Montmeló.
In a private test day, Palou got behind the controls of the orange car to discover what it’s like to get on one of the fastest single-seaters in the world: “It’s unreal, very special. This has been my dream since I was a child” .
“I never thought that I would have the opportunity to drive a Formula 1 car, so to have the opportunity to drive one is really special, also the fact of being able to drive it at home makes it doubly special,” said the Catalan. “I’ve grown up coming to this circuit and watching the testing days with my father, so to be able to drive a Formula 1 car around Barcelona has been very special.”
The Spanish driver boasts an extensive career in motorsports, since he has passed through many of the lower categories of the Great Circus, he even tried his luck beyond the races in the Old Continent until he came to occupy the crown in the IndyCar.
“I’ve been lucky enough to race in Europe, Japan and the United States, but it’s great to come back to Europe and learn from a Formula 1 team. There’s a lot I can learn, and I can’t wait to continue,” Palou explained of his experience with McLaren. “I tried to prepare as much as possible, but at the same time I don’t think I could have been ready for this without having driven a car before.”
“Now I know what I have to do to prepare. I just wanted to have fun and take advantage of every moment”, said the Spaniard before being asked by the team what surprised him the most about the MCL35M : “Everything! I would probably say the level of grip and the general ability of the car, to be able to brake so late and still have incredible balance in the corners.
“The car is very fast and of course I am impressed with how fast these cars can go, but in a way you get used to it. With the grip, even after 100 laps, my body was still telling me every time I was approaching a curve, ‘no, no, no, there is no way’, but you can do it, and even more, “he said.
“Power-wise it’s insane, the amount of force, grip and downforce is insane,” continued the 2021 United States motorsports top-flight champion. “On the weight, I think it’s similar, but it goes so fast and a lot of downforce. We have power steering in Formula 1, but not in Indy, which makes a big difference.
“Both are physically demanding, but in different ways. A Formula 1 car requires more neck strength and g-forces, but it’s easier on the arms. In IndyCar, the arms are very demanding, but the neck is more easy,” revealed Palou. “The amount of detail in Formula 1 cars is insane, so it was just about getting comfortable with speed and downforce to begin with.”
In the Woking team itself they ended up happy with the work of the Spaniard, in addition to that of Patricio O’Ward , who was also present at the tests in Barcelona. McLaren’s chief engineer for the event, Phil Thomas , explained: “They have both worked very hard and were excited about the opportunity. They have both made the most of it, and I am impressed with what they have done so far.”
“They had to do some qualifying runs, some long and some practice. The variety is what benefits them the most, they got into the detailed driving improvements and made a lot of progress,” concluded the Woking test manager. .
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