Àlex Palou (Sant Antoni de Vilamajor, Barcelona, 1997) attended EFE less than 24 hours after a historic race such as the Indianapolis 500, in which he may be the first Spaniard to bathe in milk in celebration after 105 editions. He trusts. “We have the car to fight for victory. We have options ”.
In his first season in a leading team, the current champion, as is Chip Ganassi Racing, Palou won the first race and is second in the championship after five appointments. And ambition is not lacking. “Of course, yes,” he assures when asked about the possibility of becoming a champion. Of course, aware of the difficulty of winning his partner Scott dixon.
How are the nerves? Sleep well?
Well, the truth is that very well. We have a competitive car, we started on the second row and we were very comfortable throughout the week; I guess that helps when it comes to going to the race. I have slept well and looking forward to the race.
You debut at the Indy 500 without an audience when, normally, it’s a two-week event where the audience plays a big role. This year there will be 135,000 spectators in the stands. Do you experience it in a more special way than your debut?
Yes, a little more. We have a lot more to do and the race feels bigger. Knowing that there will be more than one hundred thousand people is going to be special. Better than last year, although it was good for me not to have that pressure of change of having been training for two weeks without an audience and then arriving on Sunday and having 130,000 people there.
Everything is controlled. The car is there to be in front, the team is ready, I am ready
Speaking of pressure. Now he is in a winning team like Chip Ganassi Racing, while last year he was more than ‘covered’. Do you feel the pressure of being on the champion team?
The truth is that it is a bit the other way around because everything is controlled. The car is there to be ahead, the team is ready, I am ready… everything is going as it should. However, when you are in a smaller team you have to do more different things; You have to improve yourself a lot more to be up to the task. Of course, once you are up here you have to get results, for now we have done it and tomorrow will be a good day too.
Before he had almost to earn his bread in every race to find a sponsor and now he is on a winning team, thanks to his performance and the support he has from Monaco Increase Management.
You always need someone by your side to help and guide you. It’s great to have made it to IndyCar, which is the highest level of competition in the United States only behind NASCAR, and to be able to be in the biggest event is incredible. Everything has turned out very well for us and I hope we can have many more years.
Is the goal to win the Indy 500?
The truth is. We have the car to fight for victory. Of course, another thing is to win. Very few pilots make it. We are 33 with options to win. It’s a very crazy race, an endurance even if we do it very fast (laughs) in which the car has to be perfect during those three hours, make about five perfect stops so as not to lose position and everything has to be perfect. One thing is to fight and another is to win, but we have options for sure.
It is an endurance race and everyone has their plan. There are riders who want to be ahead, but are not worried about not leading the race at the beginning, others who prefer the opposite … how do you take it?
It’s a survival race at the beginning and setting you up for the end of the race. In the last stop you are going to risk everything and determine the position in which you can end up fighting. If you are not in the top four or five with 20 laps to go, it is impossible to win the race. We will try to fight and be up there positioning ourselves, but until the last 20 laps it does not matter if you have led 180 or if you have not led any, you have the same options.
It’s a race for survival and setting yourself up for the finish. In the last stop you are going to risk everything and determine the position in which you can end up fighting. If you are not in the top four or five with 20 laps to go, it is impossible to win
Low temperatures are expected and that matches performance, which is why those behind prefer it. I imagine you will even do the heat dance, if there is one.
Yes, they will affect the conditions a lot. The cooler, the more aerodynamic grip and that evens it all out. I hope the truth is not too cold (laughs), we have such a good car that we don’t need it. The hotter the better it will be for me.
In Texas, another oval, you were behind your teammate Scott Dixon, a six-time champion, but it took you more to clear the traffic. What did you learn from that career?
It’s a little different because he doesn’t have that much straight, but I learned a lot from him, how he could handle traffic and things that happened to him in the race. I am happy to have done two races behind him and to be able to learn. It’s different here because we’ve been shooting for two weeks and I’ve already gained a lot of experience myself.
Speaking of confidence, you had an accident in the first part of qualifying and most drivers would have slowed down afterwards, but you reached the ‘fast nine’ the next day and moved up one position, sixth. How are those doubts handled?
It was tough, but all we were trying to do was move up and push the car to the limit. We wanted to go for pole and what was training for us got a little out of hand, but things happen in Indianapolis when you push everything to the limit. We managed to regain the car and everyone’s trust; Doing it this fast was great. Also, in the afternoon we did first in a session. It was a very good day.
He is second in the championship in his first season on a winning team and in a good position to take a lot of points in the Indy 500, where they are split more than usual. Are you confident of winning the title?
Of course yes. It is going to be very difficult because Dixon is at his highest level, he does not have to learn any tracks, he has a lot of experience … and he drives the same car as me! (laughs). It is difficult to compete against experience, but the good thing about him being my partner is that I know everything he does and I can learn a lot from him. What I have to do is win; that’s always the goal. Complicated weekends will come in which I have never raced, but we will try to add up and do the best we can.
He won the first race and is now more recognized in the United States and Spain. How does Alex Palou live that ‘boom’?
It shows, yes. Here in the United States, being my first year and with the coronavirus, people did not know who I was, but this year more people already know me as I am in a leading team; everyone knows who drives the number 10. I’m very happy. Also in Spain. I have been surprised by all the people who have started to follow IndyCar from the first race. It’s easy for new people to show up at the Indianapolis 500, but during normal races it’s harder and we’re getting there.