Brown defends ‘elbows out’ approach to recruiting IndyCar’s best

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McLaren Racing boss Zak Brown says he makes no apologies for getting his “elbows out” when attempting to secure the services of IndyCar’s best drivers.

Ahead of last weekend’s round of racing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Brown informed Arrow McLaren’s staff that Alex Palou had reneged on a deal to race for the outfit in IndyCar in 2024.

While remaining with Chip Ganassi Racing this season - following a previous legal spat involving McLaren, CGR and himself - Palou agreed to commit to moving to Arrow McLaren next season, a decision incentivized by a comprehensive test programme with team papaya in F1.

But a recent change of heart prompted Palou to scrap the deal – for which he had even received a salary down-payment from McLaren - and to remain with CGR for 2024.

In a letter sent to Arrow McLaren staff last weekend, Brown denounced the Spaniard’s breach of trust while Palou’s management company, MIM, announced that it had severed ties with the driver on the back of his refusal to fulfill his contractual obligations.

Ganassi unsurprisingly defended Palou, claiming that McLaren’s dealings and actions equated to “interference” and insisting its driver remained under contract with CGR.

But Brown, without specifically mentioning McLaren’s conflict with Palou, which is likely to head into litigation, defended his team’s approach to securing driver talent, noting that aggressive recruitment tactics are the norm rather than the exception in the sport.


“You’ve got to get your elbows out,” he told The Race. “And I think every racing series has to start with getting the best drivers in the car, and to do what it takes.

“It’s funny, the people that are sometimes critical, it’s exactly what they’ve done to get to where they are.

“We’ve kind of broken into the top three and four in IndyCar, from a team that was not there previously, and we’ve had to make some aggressive moves to get Gavin Ward in, to get these drivers in.

“But I can tell you growing up watching these guys, they’ve done the same thing over the years themselves, and it’s just kind of when the new kid on the block shows up, that’s it.

“The establishment is kind of like a duopoly. And now it’s three or four teams in there.

“You have to do it with talent. Good news is I think once you build it, you don’t have to do it every day. You’ve just got to kind of do it to get to that level.”

Brown made clear that his “elbows out” approach wasn’t a mere self-satisfying tough guy act, but rather a responsible plan of attack that served the purpose of “elevating” Arrow McLaren’s development.

“I don’t get my elbows out just for the sake of getting elbows out,” he said. “But we’ve got to have the best driver line-ups in each racing series, the best talent in each racing series.

“Once you kind of get that set, then you don’t need to do it on a daily basis.

“But we’re having to elevate ourselves in IndyCar and we’re having to catch up here. And it’s something that hopefully we don’t have to [do constantly].

“It’s not always fun. Sometimes it’s fun! But it’s all done with a purpose, to get McLaren to the front.”

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