Palou: Superlicence system “unfair” on ‘F1-capable’ IndyCar drivers

2022 F1 season

Posted on

| Written by and

Alex Palou says the points system to acquire an FIA superlicence is “very unfair” on some series, namely IndyCar.

Last weekend Palou made his Formula 1 practice debut with McLaren at the United States Grand Prix, and the Spaniard confirmed he possesses a superlicence which means he could be called upon to race in F1.

Palou’s junior career encompassed Formula 2 and its support series GP3 (now known as Formula 3), as well as its rival Formula V8 3.5 and the Euroformula and Super Formula Lights series that both ran to traditional F3 regulations at the time.

He moved up to the top level of single-seaters in Super Formula, where he nearly won the title in his single season there, then switched to IndyCar in 2020 and won last year’s title. IndyCar delivers fewer superlicence points than F2 – only 90 combined for top three championship finishers compared to 120 for F2’s top three – and more points can be earned from racing in the FIA F3 championship than in Super Formula.

“I don’t think that’s going to change at all,” Palau commented on the allocation of superlicence points to professional series. “I have my super licence, I’m happy, I don’t care what happens.

“But I think it’s very unfair that there’s some series that they don’t get enough licence points. Pato [O’Ward] doesn’t have [enough points for a superlicence], and he finished third in the championship, fourth in the championship, and seventh. A guy that is like that doing 17 weekends racing against people that have ten or 15 years of experience in IndyCar – that guy is capable of doing a lot in F1.

“But that’s a rule, so hopefully they change it in the future. I understand that also the FIA, they want everybody to go through Europe and through other places, but it’s true that you could get more points by racing in a winter series in Thailand and winning that than finishing fifth in IndyCar. I don’t know if that’s fair.”

Nikita Mazepin and Zhou Guanyu both eased their paths to superlicences by racing in the fourth-tier Formula Regional Asian Championship once they were already F2 drivers.

“I think the programme they have in F2 is good. If you’ve finished top three, you get a superlicence and that should be like that,” Palou added. “But I think they could maybe give a little bit more up.”

Palou is one of many in IndyCar who want that series’ superlicence value to increase, and says “we’re [not] asking too much” in that F2 can retain its status as the top series even with a points boost for IndyCar.

“I think you should give a little bit more importance in IndyCar, basically because of the level of the drivers and also how long our season is. I mean, the track time we get, it’s massive compared to an F2 driver. And I’m not saying that we are better, but we are capable of going out and driving in F1.”

Palou’s rival Pato O’Ward is set to drive for McLaren in Abu Dhabi Grand Prix practice and F1’s Young Driver Test, while Colton Herta is another IndyCar driver on McLaren’s F1 test programme.

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

2022 Mexican Grand Prix

Browse all 2022 Mexican Grand Prix articles

Author information

Ida Wood
Often found in junior single-seater paddocks around Europe doing journalism and television commentary, or dabbling in teaching photography back in the UK. Currently based...
RJ O'Connell
Motorsport has been a lifelong interest for RJ, both virtual and ‘in the carbon’, since childhood. RJ picked up motorsports writing as a hobby...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

38 comments on “Palou: Superlicence system “unfair” on ‘F1-capable’ IndyCar drivers”

  1. Indycar is a domestic series and the amount of super licence points given reflects that.

    F2 is an international series run at exactly the same tracks as F1, which is why it gets a higher amount of SL points.

    Palou’s not even that good an Indycar driver. One win and 6 top-5 finishes.

    1. petebaldwin (@)
      27th October 2022, 10:44

      You know that’s not why it gets a higher amount of SL points but assuming it is, how can you explain the following:

      If you win Indycar, you get 40 points compared to 30 points for winning F3 (an international championship run on the same tracks as F1)? If you finish 4th in Indycar, you get 10 points compared to 15 points for coming 4th in F3…..

      Why would that make any sense?

      1. Exactly. The drop off makes no sense. I think I calculated that Herta would have enough points if Indy paid out the same ratio to F3 for all positions.

    2. NBA is domestic, but it’s still a pretty good league.

      Learning new tracks isn’t such an amazing feat for a racing driver.

      Palou is a champion of a popular and competitive open weheel racing series.

    3. You may need to explain Japanese Super Formula in that case.

    4. @gardenfella72 F2 might technically be an international series, but one that predominantly races in Europe.

      1. @jerejj Europe isn’t a country

        1. @gardenfella72 I didn’t imply this way, but true.

    5. There is nothing domestic about IndyCar. It isn’t a domestic championship, it’s a world championship.

      1. Pretty much a domestic series as it races almost exclusively in a single country.

      2. Yes, in exactly the same way that the winners of the American baseball and “foot”ball playoffs are “World Champions.”

        1. Indycar DOES race in Toronto, Canada (a/k/a, “America’s Hat”)

    6. Pretty certain this is not the reason for Indycar to score so few points. It’s domestic, but is basically a championship for the entire north America, which is much more that Japan only (Superformula) or Germany (DTM).

      F2 is an International championship, true, but it is also a junior spec series design to train and bring the best juniors to F1. You only have young guns (to a few exception that are generally payed drivers), so in that sense it make sense to attribute points based on the championship result.

      Indycar is not a junior championship, it’s THE North America (and you might add Australia / NZ in it) open wheel championship in which you have junior, experienced, big star drivers making their whole carrier. You can argue it’s basically a spec series but you do have sizeable differences between teams with some powerhouse (Penske, CGR), some good mid field (Andretti, McLaren), some small mid-field and then some small back field team. So it does not make sense to only attribute points to the few first in the championship like in F2.

      I don’t know if there is a willingness at FIA level to revised the weight of Indycar (or are they are still seeing them as competitors). But for sure, it does not make sense that O’Ward and Herta have no super license. And frankly, I’m not sure it make sense Mazepin and other F2 driver had theirs.

    7. And he was only 0.3 sec off Norris time on the same medium tires in FP1 at the USGP. Damn good for spending limited time in the car. He’d beat him regularly after more experience in the car.

  2. It’s not about capability – it’s business.
    The FIA’s business….

    1. This is the right answer. F1 sees IndyCar as a competitor to its F1/F2/F3 ecosystem. They’ll give IndyCar as little as possible.

  3. The entire system is complete nonsense. Introduced in a hurry because of an overreaction to Max Verstappen and it’s solved no actually problem for F1.

    Let teams decide who they put in cars, and just go back to the old system asap.

    1. @sjaakfoo Or merely ax the points system but keep the other requirements such as the minimum age of 18, at least 300 km driving an F1 car at proper racing speeds, rule studying theory, etc.

      1. Yeah, I see no fault with that.

      2. Exactly, the SL should really be there to ensure you’re not a danger to other drivers and have a certain level of competency and understanding of how to drive an F1 car. The teams can decide if a driver is fast enough to deserve a seat, and you can have a 107% rule to stop any proper human road blocks and the current penalty points system to suspend/ban any genuinely dangerous drivers.

        1. @f1hornet I couldn’t agree more with you.

    2. You mean like IndyCar. Lol!!!!
      Should be none of the FAI’s business who the teams want to put in their cars, unless the FAI wants to pay the drivers themselves.

  4. Well, Sargeant seems to have no problem getting the SL.
    I like Indycar, but either one is finishing on top3 over a Indycar season – and thus getting the points for the SL – or one is not F1 capable.

    1. That is oversimplification at it’s best.

      According to your system, if Hamilton, Norris, Leclerc and Verstappen entered Indycar in the same season, at least one would prove himself “not F1 capable”.

  5. I want to see winners, not 4th-placers.

  6. Without a doubt, Alex is a great promise, but sometimes it is better to be cautious in statements.

  7. If a driver cannot collect 40 superlicense points over multiple seasons in Indycar, they have no place in Formula 1.

    Formula 1 needs generational talents, and they don’t run into problems garnering the necessary points.

    1. It’s not the role of the sanctioning body to screen out all who aren’t generational talents – by definition, there cannot be an entire grid filled with those. The sanctioning body’s screening interest should be in keeping out drivers who are dangerously slow or inexperienced, or who have done something sufficiently bad to get on a “naughty list”. Beyond that, they’re overstepping their bounds when they tell a team that they cannot hire a particular driver.

      A competition should let poor decisions by competitors (e.g., hiring a lousy driver) be their own punishment unless there’s a safety concern.

    2. @proesterchen – I think it’s more to prevent pay drivers to enter F1 but i would have a system of F2 champion spot in F1 1 each 2 years and no collection of points. And the worst F1 driver back to F2 (or out) each 2 years.

  8. Tommy Scragend
    27th October 2022, 14:59

    Is this the same Alex Palou who was recently quoted as saying that “F1 is not a place I could really achieve”, because it is so much higher level than IndyCar?

    1. If he said “F1 is not a place I could really achieve” then it was almost certainly in the context of F1 being much more about how good your car is than how well you drive it.

  9. The FIA shouldn’t be the filter to decide who can and cannot enter F1. It should be up to the teams alone. Many world champions never raced in F2/GP2.

    1. Hiland (@flyingferrarim)
      27th October 2022, 17:03

      I generally do agree with your point here, but there does need to be some level of entry criteria to avoid pay drivers that really don’t belong. It’s dangerous enough having Stroll out there!

    2. The FIA owns Formula 1 and makes and enforces the rules.

      It is the FIA’s prerogative to require drivers a certain amount of success before being allowed to enter, and it’s not particularly hard for a quality driver with the goal of competing in Formula 1 to gain the necessary 40 superlicense points across three seasons.

      Alex Palou did it in one!

      1. require drivers *demonstrate a certain amount of success

  10. Indycar requires pit stops for both refueling and tire changes. Two types of tire compounds must be used during a race. The top speed at the top tracks exceeds F1. The races typically last 1.5 to 2 hours. The experience a driver earns vastly exceeds that of F2 and the drivers on average are vastly more experienced than F2. There really is little comparison.

    1. Not sure if you can reach (Bottas’ speed of 372.54 km/h (That’s 231.5 mph!) on a highspeed track which isn’t a oval.
      Even a Oval is around 230 mph I thought??

      1. Of course I am speaking of ovals, which are part of the series. Scott Dixon’s average speed for four laps was 234 mph. Top trap speeds are over 240. My point is that a driver who competes in Indycar gets a vasty greater range of experience than in F2. Not only because of the car, but because of the very experienced senior drivers they are competing against. This explains why the top Indycar drivers who were tested this year impressed teams who are typically testing less experienced drivers.

Comments are closed.