After tense legal battle, Palou stays with Ganassi for 2023; Rosenqvist back with McLaren

Nathan Brown
Indianapolis Star

After a war of press releases and a lawsuit, lawyers representing Chip Ganassi Racing and Alex Palou found common ground that will keep the once IndyCar title-winning parties together for at least one more year. Wednesday morning, CGR and Palou jointly announced the 25-year-old Spaniard will remain in his No. 10 Honda seat for 2023 -- this time without social media controversy and dueling press releases.

"I'm excited to announce that (Chip Ganassi Racing) and I have come to an agreement and I'll be back in the No. 10 car next season!" Palou tweeted. "Looking forward to a BIG 2023."

Sep 11, 2022; Salinas, California, USA; Chip Ganassi Racing driver Alex Palou (10) of Spain celebrates his race vicotry following the Grand Prix of Monterey at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.

Most of the terms, including any financial compensation, were not made public. Importantly, though, Ganassi did agree to allow Palou to participate in Formula 1 testing for McLaren this offseason and throughout next year, "provided that it does not directly conflict with his IndyCar commitments."

"As always, we will support Alex as he seeks a second series championship with the team," the team continued in a provided statement.

More:Zak Brown updates status with Alex Palou, Felix Rosenqvist

Palou kicked off that testing program Wednesday, taking part in McLaren's private test day in Barcelona with Pato O'Ward, among others.

Palou and Ganassi's announcement was shortly followed a similar one from McLaren Racing, confirming the return of Felix Rosenqvist to the team's IndyCar program for 2023. Sunday morning, hours before Palou dominated the season-finale, beating the race's podium finishers (and the eventual top-2 in the championship) Josef Newgarden and Will Power by more than 30 seconds, McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown made clear that, barring massive developments, he was down to Palou and Rosenqvist for his 3rd IndyCar driver for 2023.

Importantly, Brown said he was also under a deadline of the end of the month to make a decision, due to the team's IndyCar option on Rosenqvist expiring at 11:59 p.m. Sept. 30. Waiting past that date would've left Arrow McLaren SP at risk of losing Rosenqvist to another IndyCar team, and given the uncertainty around Palou and Ganassi's mediation (and potential litigation), the 2021 champ would've been no guaranteed signing either.

When first asked Sunday for an update on Palou's status with the team for next year, Brown made a concerted effort to bring his contentment with Rosenqvist to the forefront.

Arrow McLaren SP driver Pato O'Ward (5) congratulates teammate Arrow McLaren SP driver Felix Rosenqvist (7) after he secured the pole position Friday, July 29, 2022, during qualifying for the Gallagher Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

"I'm very happy with Felix," Brown said. "He's done an excellent job this year and been strong all year. I would be very happy to have Felix in our car again."

Rosenqvist's IndyCar return comes less than three months after McLaren issued a release June 23 stating the two sides had "signed a multi-year deal" for the Swedish driver "to remain on the team's driver roster for 2023 and beyond." Brown revealed Sunday that the release came at a time when McLaren held a team option on Rosenqvist in IndyCar and also had a verbal agreement with the driver for a potential opportunity in Formula E, should Brown opt to place him there next season.

As the weeks wore on and Rosenqvist and his agent Stefan Johansson took stock in the landscape -- including McLaren's announcement July 12 about Palou that many assumed set him up to replace Rosenqvist -- and the second-year AMSP driver withdrew his desire to potentially return to Formula E, where he won races before his jump to IndyCar with Ganassi in 2019. Rather than force his driver into a situation he didn't want to be in -- as it appeared Ganassi was attempting to do with Palou -- Brown was amenable to his driver's choice about his career path.

Arrow McLaren SP IndyCar driver Pato O'Ward talks with McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown at the series' 2022 season-opener in St. Pete.

He'd let Rosenqvist pursue a career in IndyCar, while knowing all the while he still had first dibs through the end of September. In the end, the Swedish driver's decision to bet on himself paid off. To put a bow on the upward trajectory of his 2022 campaign, he placed 4th in Sunday's finale at Laguna Seca to finish 8th in the championship, one spot behind O'Ward.

"There's no better way to enter the off-season than with this news!" Rosenqvist said in the release. "I love this year, and I'm so happy to continue working with all the incredible people I've gotten to know over the past two seasons. With everything the team has in the pipeline, the continuing relationship with Pato and the addition of Alex Rossi, we are going to bring our A-game from 2023. It will be the most exciting season for me so far. Let it be March already!"