Alonso would be “immensely successful” in IndyCar, says Brown
McLaren CEO Zak Brown remains of the view that while Fernando Alonso's desire for Indianapolis 500 glory remains intact, he’s shown no interest in competing in the full NTT IndyCar Series season.
Both Brown and Sam Schmidt spoke to the media last Friday and on Monday, following the announcement that McLaren will be returning full time to Indy car racing in partnership with Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and with Chevrolet power.
Inevitably in both media conferences the question of Alonso’s possible interest in IndyCar took little time to arise, but Brown reiterated what he told Formula 1 media in late July – that Alonso has yet to show any interest in committing to a full season of IndyCar racing.
Even regarding the Indianapolis 500 in 2020, Brown last week said “there’s no plans yet.”
He went on: “Fernando remains a contracted McLaren driver and obviously a big friend of McLaren. I don’t think his desire to win Indy 500 has been diminished at all, nor our desire to try and win it with him.”
On Monday, Brown stated: “I'll be seeing Fernando at the Italian Grand Prix. He's well aware of everything that's going on with our IndyCar activities and has been for some time.
“I don't think his desire to win the Indy 500 has diminished at all. He has not shown an interest – yet, I should say – in a full season of IndyCar. He's coming off 20 years of lots of racing and I think he wanted to take the second half of this year off to see what he wants to do in the future.
“I think he would be an outstanding talent in IndyCar. I personally think, knowing him as well as I do and his driving style, he'd be immensely successful and welcomed and would enjoy it.
“But Fernando is the type of individual that you put the opportunity in front of him and let him make his decision. So I'll be picking that up with him in about a month's time, but I would not anticipate in 2020 him having a desire to do a full season.”
That said, Schmidt admitted there was a possibility of the team expanding to three full-time cars, but at the moment the only certainty is an extra entry at the 104th running of the Indianapolis 500.
“You saw this year, we got to where it was Arrow Schmidt Peterson with two identically branded entries, and that was sort of my ultimate goal for a long time as an IndyCar team owner. You'll see that transition with the McLaren Orange influence to where we have that same theme going next year.
“I wouldn't rule out ever running a third car. There certainly will be a third car in Indy, but I think our priority first and foremost is to position the two cars with identical liveries and every opportunity that those two cars have to win races, win the Indy 500, win a championship.
“A third full-time entry is not really on the radar now, but I wouldn't rule it out for sure.”
Motorsport.com understands that despite Schmidt’s stated intention to retain incumbent James Hinchcliffe for 2020, and the Canadian star’s assertion on social media that despite his American Honda and Honda Canada ties he was looking forward to “rekindling” his relationship with GM when Arrow McLaren Racing SP switch to Chevrolet power, that situation remains extremely fluid.
Several Honda teams have expressed an interest in running an extra entry for Hinchcliffe, and the marque regards him as a huge asset in their marketing campaign. Hinchcliffe himself was unavailable for comment.
Brown and Schmidt said the announcement had triggered a lot of interest in the driver market. The former commented: “The phone has definitely been very active with all sorts of individuals.”
Schmidt added: “The first goal was to get past the announcement last week, and then as Zak said, see how the phones light up and make that list. Then reconvene later this week and start making some of those decisions and offers and whatnot.
“So stay tuned – but it will be a few weeks before we make any announcements.”
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