Chip Ganassi Racing’s Alex Palou dominated this year’s GMR Indy Grand Prix. It was a clinical performance from the 2021 IndyCar champion as he raced to his first win of the season. Here are the takeaways from this weekend’s INDY Grand Prix.
Palou Underlines His Championship Credentials
A model of consistency through the first four races, Palou was itching to record his first win of the season. Palou was in perfect harmony with his number 10 Chip Ganassi car.
The Spaniard was top five in practice and qualifying and then flawlessly executed a three-stop strategy in the race. From the second row, Palou roared into the lead on lap one as he cashed in on his softer compound tires. In total, Palou led 52 laps, and his hard tire strategy proved to be the best.
The Barcelona native took the checkered flag 16 seconds ahead of McLaren’s Pato O’Ward. The win took Palou to the top of the championship standings, and he thanked his team after the win; “We honestly knew we had a fast car since P1 (first practice) yesterday,” Palou said. “The car has been amazing all weekend. Once we knew we were starting on reds (Firestone alternate tires), we knew we would fight for the win—fantastic work by these guys. I just had to execute.”
McLaren Kick Off May With a Bang
While Palou grabbed the headlines, the final race standings had a healthy tinge of Papaya. McLaren’s three cars finished in the top five as Pato O’Ward and Alexander Rossi notched two podium finishes, and Felix Rosenqvist came home in fifth. The Papaya-clad cars were consistently fast all race, and the result now places O’Ward just six points behind the championship leader. The Mexican star praised his team after a spectacular team result; “Super stoked for the team. We put three cars in the top five. Fricking hard to do in this series with how competitive it is. Just stoked for everybody in the organization, for our five crew.”
New signing Alexander Rossi also enjoyed a good race, as he battled from outside the top six to take his first podium of the season. Rossi finally looked at ease with his new car and kick-started his season significantly.
For McLaren, the result confirms they are the rising team in the NTT IndyCar Series. Former Team Penske technical boss Gavin Ward joined McLaren last year, and he was enthused over this result; “It’s a huge confidence boost for everybody. This team is full of superstars, and getting people to realize our talent and what we can achieve is good. It’s good to give us the confidence to run our program and ignore the noise as we run through May.”
It is a massive month for McLaren. The company is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year, and it will run four cars at the Indianapolis 500. McLaren will also run three distinct liveries, reflecting their past wins at the Monaco Grand Prix, 24 Hours of Le Mans, and the Indy 500. 2013 Indy 500 winner Tony Kanaan will join 2016 winner Rossi and last year’s runner-up O’Ward, as Zak Brown fixes his eyes on the biggest prize in racing.
A Consolidation Day for the Big Guns
After a challenging qualifying session, series heavyweights Josef Newgarden, Scott Dixon, and Marcus Ericsson fought valiantly into the top ten. Newgarden was the highest-finishing Team Penske car in seventh, while six-time champion Dixon dragged his PNC Bank Chip Ganassi car to sixth, despite briefly falling towards the back on lap one. All three of these drivers had solid race pace on both tires and bagged some vital points for the championship.
Driver Of The Day – Alex Palou
Who else was it going to be? Palou provided a timely reminder of his devastating speed and clinical ability to lead from the front. The 26-year-old was a cut above everyone else. And this win now adds another intriguing dynamic to the tug-of-war between Chip Ganassi Racing and McLaren for Palou’s long-term services.
Final Race Classification
- Alex Palou – Chip Ganassi Racing
- Pato O’Ward – McLaren
- Alexander Rossi – McLaren
- Christian Lundgaard – RLL Racing
- Felix Rosenqvist – McLaren
- Scott Dixon – Chip Ganassi Racing
- Josef Newgarden – Team Penske
- Marcus Ericsson – Chip Ganassi Racing
- Colton Herta – Andretti Autosport
- Graham Rahal – RLL Racing
- Romain Grosjean – Andretti Autosport
- Will Power – Team Penske
- Rinus VeeKay – Ed Carpenter Racing
- Kyle Kirkwood – Andretti Autosport
- Marcus Armstrong – Chip Ganassi Racing
- Scott McLaughlin – Team Penske
- Devlin DeFrancesco – Andretti Autosport
- Callum Ilott – Juncos Hollinger Racing
- Conor Daly – Ed Carpenter Racing
- Jack Harvey – RLL Racing
- Agustin Canapino – Juncos Hollinger Racing
- Helio Castroneves – Meyer Shank Racing
- Santino Ferrucci – AJ Foyt Racing
- Ben Pedersen – AJ Foyt Racing
* Simon Pagenaud – Meyer Shank Racing
* David Malukas – Dale Coyne Racing
* Sting Ray Robb – Dale Coyne Racing
All eyes now turn toward the 107th running of the Indianapolis 500. On Memorial Day weekend, Indianapolis Motor Speedway will host over 350,000 race fans as 33 drivers fight for racing immortality. The biggest Sunday in car racing is nearly here, and it should be spectacular.