Alex Palou described his first taste of contemporary McLaren Formula 1 machinery as "insane" but revealed he drove within the limits to protect Daniel Ricciardo at the United States Grand Prix.
The 2021 IndyCar champion was given his first run in a 2022-spec McLaren – having completed test days in a '21 machine – in Free Practice 1 at Circuit of the Americas, replacing Daniel Ricciardo.
It half fulfilled the requirement for the team to run rookie drivers in FP1 sessions, with Lando Norris set to hand over to Pato O'Ward in Mexico, but Palou more than held his own against the Briton.
The Spanish driver finished 17th in the session, about 1.1 seconds slower than Norris, although he did not get to complete a low fuel, Soft tyre run which vaulted the #4 up the order late on.
Despite this, Palou was still extremely impressed by what F1 machinery had to offer.
Palou on McLaren
"It's fast, it's insane," Palou told media when asked by RacingNews365.com to describe his outing.
"Obviously, I was lucky to test the 2021 car, so that already gave me the feeling of an F1 car, but then here, obviously, you have the traffic and you don't want to impede anybody else.
"You have a car that's not yours, obviously, so I was trying to take care of it and trying not to get into trouble with people that are racing this weekend.
"This track, I think it is pretty awesome for an F1 car – especially Sector 1 which is super fast. It is beautiful to drive.
"I trusted the car 100% but the car was capable of doing more than I thought it was.
"I went through Sector 1 and I felt like it's not saying it is on the limit, so I started pushing more.
"It is true that in the slow corners I was quite strong, but I think it's easy to get more confidence there.
"In the last two corners, I lacked a little bit, especially the second to last one [Turn 19], but the car could do a lot more than I thought – it was not confidence – it was that I couldn't believe how fast I could go with the car."
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As Palou was in for Ricciardo, he admitted he was careful not to crash the Australian's car and hamper his already limited running over the remainder of the weekend – and noted how the simulator is not the best prep.
"It's a simulator, it's a game you can always restart," he explained.
"You can't restart here, we get Daniel's car and I am afraid of crashing a car that has to go out [for FP2]. It is not mine.
"I was happy. And that was the plan [not to do a low fuel run].
"I completely understand the target of the session was not to shine and be like: 'Hey, this is the time that we can post.'
"It was more to save some tyres for Daniel, because that's going to help him now. He lost an hour. It's going to help him and that's going to help the team.
"Obviously, I pushed the engineers: 'Come on, give me another tyre, you're not paying for it, just give me another one!', but obviously, I understand everything so I would do the same if I was in the other position."
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