Palou on why McLAREN have been 'super fun to work with'
Palou made his second appearance in a McLaren F1 car at a test in Austria last week
Having described his first Formula 1 experience as a "dream," Alex Palou says he was able to "relax a bit more" on his second appearance in the MCL35M, with the Spanish racer getting back behind the wheel for a test in Austria.
Running as part of our Driver Development Programme, Palou enjoyed his second F1 test in just over a month after making his debut at Barcelona. He shared driving duties at the Red Bull Ring with fellow INDYCAR challenger Pato O'Ward, the pair completing 171 laps and 375km over the two days.
"It has been amazing," Palou said. "It is always cool to test, but it is even better when it is back-to-back because you can remember everything you did in the last test.
"That allows you to relax a bit more and keep learning and improving straight away, meaning that you can show what you can do out on track. It has been super, super fun, and I have learned a lot. I still don't feel completely comfortable with the car - the speed and grip are insane - but I am really happy with our progress."
It was announced in September that Palou would be testing for the team with our Driver Development Programme. Since then, he has settled in quickly and enjoyed working with the McLaren Racing team.
"It has been awesome," he continued. "It does not feel like I have been working at a test with a test team, it feels like working at a race with a proper race team.
"There are a lot of engineers and mechanics all working on one car, and that's awesome. The amount of detail is incredible, and everybody has been super fun to work with."
Alongside Pato, the two drivers completed 1,242km and 267 laps between them at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya last month, where Palou noted the differences between F1 cars and INDYCAR.
Taking to a different track, the 25-year-old was able to further his understanding and adjustment to F1 machinery and said that he continued to pick up the considerable differences between the two cars.
He continued: "The way that the McLaren car – and an F1 car in general - works around high-speed corners is very different from anything I have done before, whether that be in INDYCAR, Super Formula, or F2.
"The amount of speed and detail you have to put in to make it work properly is insane. I had lots of fun looking at the data and tried to push myself in the high-speed corners.
"The two tracks are pretty similar in terms of the surface, they are both quite smooth, so you don't really have to use different techniques. That meant that I could focus on developing everything that I learned in Barcelona further and further.
"We focused on the parts of my driving that were weak in Barcelona and the areas where I could improve the most, such as braking. We continued trying to develop in those places instead of working on anything new."
The two tests will help to prepare the duo for their F1 race weekend debuts. It was announced on Friday that Palou will drive Daniel's MCL36 during FP1 at the US Grand Prix, whilst Pato will get behind the wheel of Lando's car for FP1 at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Phil Thomas was the lead engineer for both tests and was impressed by the speed at which Palou built up a relationship with the team.
"Alex has got a really strong working relationship with the engineers, and he has been able to use that to push on and improve," he said. "He has been methodically working through all of the changes he needs to make to exploit this car's aero potential.
"He has made really good strides and put himself in a good position for any future running. A lot of this test has been based on carrying over the work we did in Barcelona.
"We set a really good foundation there with both drivers, and we are now just trying to see how they take that learning to the track and how they adapt to different circuits."
Alex Palou and Pato O’Ward to drive for McLAREN F1 in Free Practice 1 sessions
The pair are set to take the wheel of the MCL36 in Austin and Abu Dhabi
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