Palou says Super Formula title possible in rookie year
Alex Palou says he can see himself fighting for the Super Formula title this year after showing race-winning pace in the season opener at Suzuka.
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Nakajima Racing driver Palou topped the first practice at the Japanese Grand Prix venue and looked set to grab pole on his debut, only to be denied by 0.029s by teammate Tadasuke Makino.
Palou shadowed Makino during the opening laps as the two sprinted clear of the rest of the field, before being hit by a drive-through penalty for an error on his team’s part.
The Spaniard decided not to pit for fresh tyres when the first safety car was called out and ran second behind Kamui Kobayashi, who had also yet to stop.
However, just as he was challenging the ex-Formula 1 driver for the lead, one of the wheels on his car failed, forcing him to park the car immediately.
"Two things happened to us,” Palou explained to Mundo Deportivo. “The first was that one of my mechanics touched the car just before leaving and that entails a penalty, since three minutes before the race start nobody can touch the car.
“They got the car jacked up so that it does not go down and then forgot it. And just before leaving they saw it, they took it out and [the stewards] put a drive-through for it.
“But before that we were second, attacking the leader and we were six tenths faster per lap. We would have caught [Kobayashi].
"There were some drivers who had not stopped yet and I stayed away to have a different strategy. After the drive-through I was doing well because I was second.
“If I had been first I could have escaped, but with so many safety cars it was impossible because you lose all the advantage. Then one wheel failed and I had to stop at the end of the race."
Makino also suffered a wheel failure later in the race, the Japanese driver crashing spectacularly in the barriers outside Spoon curve while battling Kenta Yamashita.
Palou is adamant that a title bid remains realistic after a non-score in Suzuka, but he warned that the championship could ultimately boil down to luck.
"If things happen that we do not have under control like this weekend it's impossible to win the championship,” he said.
“But what I am sure of and that everybody sees is that we will be fighting for race wins, which is the important thing. And then winning the title or not depends on who is lucky and who is looking for more.
"It's a bit early to think about the title. But we can win it. You always have to think about doing it. What I do think is that we have a good car and we will have it all year and we will fight for race wins.”
All Super Formula races are broadcast live and for free on Motorsport.tv.
Alex Palou, Nakajima Racing
Photo by: Jun Goto
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