McLaren enter IndyCar Series for 2020 season
Woking team commit to full IndyCar season for first time in 41 years as they partner with existing squad; Alonso won't be full-time driver
By James Galloway
Last Updated: 09/08/19 3:30pm
McLaren will enter the full IndyCar season in 2020 as they expand their motorsport activities and bid to learn the lessons from this year's bruising Indy 500 experience.
Run as a separate programme to their F1 operation, McLaren are partnering with the existing Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports squad, which is based in America, as they commit to a complete IndyCar season following attempts at the showpiece Indy 500 with Fernando Alonso in two of the last three years.
Chief executive Zak Brown says Alonso will not be one of their two drivers for the full season, but is not ruling out a third attempt at the Indy 500 with the Spaniard in future.
"We are very excited," McLaren chief executive Zak Brown told Sky Sports F1. "We've got a great history, we've won Indy before a couple of times.
"We competed in the Indy 500 in 2017, with some pretty good success. 2019 unfortunately not so much but that doesn't deter us, we're racers."
De Ferran said: "Our ambition, over time, is to consistently compete for wins and championships. We acknowledge the challenge ahead of us but McLaren is committed to this partnership and to supporting the team as a whole."
In an attempt to help secure Alonso the triple crown of motorsport, McLaren first returned to the Indy 500 with Alonso in 2017. In partnership with the established Andretti team, Alonso qualified fifth and led the race on his debut before an engine failure ended his chances. However, going it alone for 2019, McLaren endured embarrassment as Alonso failed to qualify for the race after a succession of problems for the outfit in the build-up.
"What happened earlier this year we learned a lot from and made a lot of mistakes," admitted Brown. "I made some wrong decisions, clearly, because we didn't qualify.
"But getting back on the horse, you can't quit in motor racing, that's not our style, so this decision is from some of the learnings we had. Just showing up to the Indianapolis 500, it's way too competitive and difficult to just show up and think you're going to go and win the race. So we think having a full-time presence will make us more successful at the 500 and over time hopefully we'll have a chance at the championship."
Currently enjoying a revitalised season in F1 and sitting a strong fourth in the standings at the summer break, Brown insisted the Indy project will "complement" and not detract from their main racing activity.
Who will drive for McLaren's entry?
The Woking outfit did not name any drivers for their full-time two-car entry in 2020, but it appears unlikely that Alonso will commit to a full season.
James Hinchcliffe and former Sauber driver Marcus Ericsson currently drive for the Schmidt Peterson team in 2019.
"I continue to talk to Fernando about IndyCar. It's the first time I think in about 20 years he doesn't have a full racing programme ahead of him and I think he still very much desires to win the Indianapolis 500. We'd like to do that with him," said Brown.
"We will have two very good full-time drivers in the series - I don't think Fernando will be one of those, but maybe he'll dust off his helmet and give the Indy 500 a go again. But we haven't made any decisions."