McLaren Racing Limited and McLaren Indy have jointly lodged a formal application in a UK commercial court initiating a lawsuit against driver Alex Palou for allegedly breaching an agreement to drive for the IndyCar team in 2024.
Palou is currently driving for the rival Chip Ganassi Racing team and is leading Scott Dixon in the 2023 IndyCar Series standings by a hundred points with three races remaining on the calendar.
After a dispute last year between McLaren and Ganassi over the Spaniard's services, Palou signed a one year deal to stay at Ganassi in 2023 ahead of an presumed agreement to move to McLaren Indy next season, which allowed him to test for the McLaren F1 team n the interim.
But last week, McLaren CEO Zak Brown told The Associated Press that Palou had made it clear to him that he had no intention of honouring such an agreement, and that he would be staying on at Ganassi instead.
This infuriated Brown, who said that the team had invested time and money - including a financial advance on his 2024 salary - on the 26-year-old in expectation of his joining them.
Palou had played a role in McLaren's F1 testing program with a view to possibly moving into F1 in the future, and took part in free practice at the 2022 United States Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas.
“We made a significant investment in Alex Palou, looking forward to racing with him in 2024,” Brown said in a statement issued to Forbes and other media on Friday after news of the lawsuit was broken by the Indianapolis Star.
“We’re placing our trust in the legal system to resolve this matter and will keep our comments at that," Brown continued.
“As a team, we’re turning our focus to the final races this season and on our plans for 2024, which we’ll announce once we’re ready.”
“We have paid him a significant first payment toward his 2024 season," Brown previously told the McLaren IndyCar team in an email.
"In addition to the millions of dollars toward developing him in our Formula 1 testing program and in his reserve driver role with a potential drive in F1 in the future.
“Unfortunately, it now appears our belief, commitment, investment, and trust in Alex was misplaced, as it is not being reciprocated.
Details of the complaint aren not currently known, but the IndyStar stated that two lawsuits were filed on August 16 and August 11 against Palou and his racing entity ALPA Racing USA LLC respectively.
McLaren is not taking action against Ganassi, and the nature of the suit - what is called a Part 7 filing - suggests they have no interest in forcing Palou to honour his agreement and join the team next year, only to recoup costs.
The legal position is further complicated by reports that Palou's contract with Ganassi has an 'exclusivity clause' preventing him from negotiating a contract with another team until September 1.
It's believed that Palou was dropped by his management company Monaco Increase Management after Brown's initial statement about the contract situation. Roger Yasukawa - who is believed to have taken over as manager - had no comment about the lawsuit.
Yasukawa has played a key role in Palou’s management since he raced in Super Formula in 2019, and reportedly joined MIM to continue in that capacity last year. Yasukawa’s father is understood to have worked worked for McLaren in the past.
According to court records, the two McLaren businesses have hired Morgan Lewis & Bockius (UK) to represent them in the action.