Fernando Alonso and McLaren's 2019 Indy 500 plans
McLaren explain how Indy return will not interfere with F1 2019; Bob Fernley joins to head up IndyCar project
By Matt Morlidge and James Galloway
Last Updated: 15/11/18 11:39am
McLaren insist their Indy 500 attempt with Fernando Alonso next year will not compromise their Formula 1 efforts, with Zak Brown stating the team's priority is to "get back to winning world championships".
McLaren's second attempt with Alonso to win the famous oval race next May will be formed from a distinct crew and "definitely not" interfere with their F1 programme in 2019, when they will aim to move up the grid with a new young driver pairing of Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris.
McLaren have confirmed that Bob Fernley, the former Force India deputy boss, has joined to head up their IndyCar project in the role of president. 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'.
"It's a whole separate racing team that will be created and we're a large racing team with lots of resources and I'm extremely confident, or we would not have entered, that we can give maximum effort to Formula 1 and this IndyCar effort without one compromising the other," said Brown, McLaren's chief executive.
"It's going to be people that currently aren't on our Formula 1 team so it's going to be built up from relationships that we have. But yes, it will be a new McLaren entry. We've always had a desire to go as McLaren Racing, but last time we did it on such short notice that I think it would have been impossible.
"I think it was six weeks between announcing and racing and you can't build a race team up that quickly. That was one of the things the shareholders wanted to do, to go as McLaren Racing and that's why we've made the announcement, to give us sufficient time to bring those resources and people in to have our own time."
McLaren going to Indy to win
By announcing their Indy 500 plans far earlier than 2017, McLaren believe they are giving themselves the best shot possible at winning the event.
The showpiece Brickyard race now stands as the only outstanding leg of Alonso's triple-crown attempt after he won the Le Mans 24 Hours with Toyota in June.
"It was a no-brainer decision in the sense that we knew we wanted to go back to Indianapolis with Fernando but there were a variety of criteria that we needed to meet for ourselves," added Brown.
"One, not detracting from our Formula 1 operations in any shape or form. Two, making sure we give Fernando, because we will be going as McLaren Racing, a car capable of winning and then if course sponsorship and partners on the commercial side.
"We always wanted to do it but we needed to make sure we had everything in place.
"Our commitment to Fernando and ourselves is that we are going to give him every chance to be competitive and we are going there trying to win the race. Equipment, testing, personnel, all those will be of the highest calibre to have the best chances possible."
Will McLaren join IndyCar full time?
McLaren's Indy 500 exploits are expected to prove an eventual pre-cursor to a full-time IndyCar programme, even if the team stress that F1 will always remain their priority
"IndyCar as a series is attractive to McLaren Racing," said Brown. "We have big ambitions, first and foremost to get back to winning world championships and winning Formula 1 races, but we think the IndyCar series, the market in which it races in, how they go motor racing, is of interest to McLaren so it's something from a longer term point of view continues to be under review and I'd certainly like to see as a full-time entry in the future.
"Certainly we'll be in a position where we're there with equipment, people, resources, so it certainly give you a head start if we ultimately decide to do a full-time entry."
What does 2019 hold for McLaren in F1?
Brown sat down with Sky F1 at the Brazilian GP ahead of the Indy announcement to discuss McLaren's hopes for an improved 2019 - when they will field an exciting new driver line-up of Sainz and Norris.
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