Amid their trials and tribulations in Formula 1, McLaren are strongly considering entering the IndyCar championship, with speculation that a team could be tailor-made for Fernando Alonso if the Spaniard decides to pursue his career elsewhere.
McLaren Racing’s chief executive Zak Brown has made no secret of the British team’s interest in recent weeks and was in Detroit for last weekend’s IndyCar race. IndyCar team owner Michael Andretti was also in the McLaren pits on Saturday.
Speaking to reporters in Montreal, Brown said plans were progressing and he expected to make an announcement in coming months on whether McLaren would have a team in place for the 2019 IndyCar season, “We’re seriously considering IndyCar, we have been doing due diligence for quite some time.”
“As stated before if we are going to get into other forms of motorsport we need to do it in a way that doesn’t compromise our Formula 1 activities or we won’t consider it. It needs to be commercially viable, something we feel we can be competitive in and fits our brand. It has to tick all those boxes.”
“We are not done with our due diligence yet but it is looking favourable so we’ll take a decision in order to be prepared for 2019 sometime in the coming months.”
Double F1 world champion Alonso competed in the Indianapolis 500 last year in an effort connected to Andretti Motorsport, leading the race before an engine failure ended his involvement.
The Spaniard, now 36, has made winning the ‘Triple Crown of Motorsport’ a target and is competing in the Le Mans 24 Hours sportscar race in France next weekend with Toyota. If he wins that, his focus will turn Stateside again.
The Triple crown is Indianapolis, Le Mans and, as far as Alonso is concerned, the Monaco Grand Prix, although it was originally held up as the F1 world championship.
The debate is academic for Alonso, who has won both of the F1 elements anyway and is entering his 300th Grand Prix this weekend — also the 50th anniversary of McLaren’s first F1 win.
McLaren won Indianapolis in 1974 and 1976 with Johnny Rutherford.
“The Triple Crown is an attractive target because it is so difficult to achieve. These are the three biggest races in the world of motorsport,” Alonso told Sky Sports television. “I don’t want to just be a good driver, I want to be a complete driver and hopefully the best driver in the world.”
It has been five years since the Spaniard’s last F1 win with Ferrari after taking both his titles with Renault, and the prospects of a return to the top of the podium remain distant.
While Alonso wants to be recognised as an all-around driver, he has insisted at every opportunity that he is not done with the glamour series despite McLaren’s struggles.
McLaren and Alonso continue to have talks about a new contract and Brown hopes the Spaniard will remain with the team, though he refused to speculate whether that would be with Formula One, IndyCar or both.
“He’s been doing Formula 1 a long time and I think he is enjoying driving as much as he ever has,” said Brown. “I think he is driving better than he ever has.”
“He is a bit frustrated with Formula 1 being more of constructors championship than a drivers championship.”
“But he loves Formula 1, loves world endurance so hopefully we will keep Fernando in the McLaren environment in some way shape or form,” insisted Brown.
Big Question: Would Indycars be a good project for McLaren to pursue with Fernando?