Former Force India deputy team principal Bob Fernley will lead McLaren’s bid to win the Indianapolis 500 with Spain’s double Formula 1 world champion Fernando Alonso next year.
McLaren said in a statement on Thursday that the Briton had been appointed president of McLaren IndyCar with immediate effect, reporting to the Formula One team’s American principal Zak Brown.
“Fernley will build and lead a technical team entirely focused on the 2019 Indy 500, while helping to evaluate the feasibility of a longer-term McLaren involvement in IndyCar,” they said.
Fernley left Force India after the team went into administration in July and were taken over by a consortium led by Canadian billionaire Lawrence Stroll, father of Williams driver Lance.
A close associate of Force India’s financially-troubled previous co-owner Vijay Mallya, for whom he effectively ran the team, Fernley has previous involvement in North American racing in a long career in motorsport.
“The 500 is a hell of a challenge and we have incredibly strong competitors to overcome if we’re to be successful. We will need to prepare well for the month of May and that work starts now,” he said.
Alonso, 37, is leaving Formula One at the end of this season and is aiming to become only the second driver to complete the ‘Triple Crown of Motorsport’.
The Spaniard is a double Monaco Grand Prix winner and also won the Le Mans 24 Hours this year, leaving only victory at Indianapolis between him and matching the late Graham Hill’s 1970s achievement.
McLaren Racing announces today that Bob Fernley has been appointed as President, McLaren IndyCar, with immediate effect.
Fernley will report directly to Zak Brown, CEO of McLaren Racing, and will lead the McLaren 2019 Indianapolis 500 programme, when Fernando Alonso will attempt to secure the Triple Crown of motorsport.
Fernley is a widely experienced and respected figure within the world of motorsport, with relationships across the industry. His extensive career portfolio most recently includes a role as Deputy Team Principal at the Force India Formula 1 team, and previously a focus on North American motorsport, including successful periods in IndyCar.
Fernley’s appointment is consistent with McLaren Racing’s plan to run its IndyCar programme as a separate entity to its Formula 1 activities. Fernley will build and lead a technical team entirely focused on the 2019 Indy 500, while helping to evaluate the feasibility of a longer-term McLaren involvement in IndyCar.
Further details on the 2019 McLaren Indy 500 project will be shared in due course.
Zak Brown, Chief Executive Officer, McLaren Racing said: “Bob is a fantastic operator and someone I respect greatly. His experience and leadership will be essential for us on this project. He is particularly talented at putting effective teams together and extracting maximum performance with finite resources. The Indy 500 is no easy race and Bob’s is a key role, so I’m delighted he’s on board.”
Bob Fernley, President, McLaren IndyCar said: “Heading back to The Brickyard will be a very special experience for me and I am proud to be leading this McLaren project and team. The 500 is a hell of a challenge and we have incredibly strong competitors to overcome if we’re to be successful. We will need to prepare well for the month of May and that work starts now.”