The McLaren Racing team will not field an IndyCar Series entry next season. Widely speculated in light of the team’s ongoing struggles in Formula 1, the news was not unexpected.
“We’ve taken the decision to not compete on a full-time basis in 2019,” Brown said during a press conference at Circuit of The Americas. “We’re simply not ready yet and are focused on Formula 1, so we won’t be doing that in 2019. We do have the desire, as we’ve mentioned before, in the near future.”
In motion since May, Brown and McLaren’s leadership explored collaborations with at least three IndyCar teams, including Andretti Autosport, Ed Carpenter Racing, and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. Team owner Michael Andretti, who fielded the McLaren Andretti Honda Indy 500 entry for McLaren’s Fernando Alonso in 2017, is known to have gone quite far with Brown on the subject of a full-time McLaren effort in 2019.
The machinations of that work ultimately resulted in an alliance with the Harding Racing team which, had it gone forward, would have seen entries shuffled in order to accommodate the two McLaren cars alongside the four run from inside Andretti’s shop. With Brown and McLaren unable to commit to the program, the expansion plan was modified to field two of Andretti’s Indy Lights drivers – champion Patricio O’Ward and runner-up Colton Herta – under the Harding Steinbrenner Racing badge.
Although McLaren’s IndyCar ambitions have been waylaid until at least 2020, the possibility remains for Alonso to take his second shot at winning the Indy 500 next May. Based on conversations held between Andretti and RACER at Mid-Ohio, there’s a high probability of seeing the Spaniard in a Andretti-McLaren entry at the Speedway.
“As far as the Indy 500 is concerned, it’s something that remains of interest to us,” Brown said. “That’ll be a decision that ultimately we take in the off-season, and it’s something Fernando would like to do. Right now, we’re still focused on Formula 1, and until we get a little bit of fresh air, we’ll remain focused on that.”
Andretti Autosport COO Rob Edwards says the team expects to run one or more Indy-only cars, although nothing has been confirmed regarding who might pilot the Honda-powered entries.