McLaren will not drop its plans to pursue a future in IndyCar and will come back fighting after its failure to qualify for this year’s Indianapolis 500, according to team boss Zak Brown.
Fernando Alonso was bumped from the field of 33 with the final run of the Last Row Shootout on Sunday by Kyle Kaiser and Juncos Racing, ensuring McLaren will not race on its return to the Brickyard. While Brown says serious mistakes were made that need rectifying, he says the setback will not deter McLaren from returning to IndyCar.
“All the reasons why we think McLaren should be at Indy remain,” Brown said. “When you’re in racing, you’re going to have highs and lows. That was obviously a very significant low, the lowest point in my 25 years of motor racing. I think you have to dust yourself off, learn by your mistakes, and come back fighting. That’s what we intend to do.
“I think in racing, you lose races. This was a very high-profile loss, but we’re racers. You take risks. Hopefully you get it right more often than you get it wrong. And we’re going to learn by this. I saw a tribute from Niki (Lauda) when he won an award at the Laureus Awards, and he stood up and said he learned more from losing that made me a champion than from winning. I think that’s the case here, because we learned a lot. I will be a better CEO for this in the long term because of some of the mistakes that I made along the way.
“To not do something is easy, but that’s not I think what winners do. Again coming back to Niki, it would have been easy for him to quit Formula 1 after his (1976) accident, but he wanted to come back and win. There’s very good reasons why McLaren should be at Indianapolis. A big market, partners want to be there, motor business is strong there, etc. So none of those change.
“Fortunately now we’ve got Andreas Seidl and James Key in the Formula 1 team leadership in place. I think for sure that will help because if someone like Gil (de Ferran) ran the program from day one, I think we’d have a different result. Would it be easier not to do something? I don’t think racers take the easy route often.”
Brown — who used the term “when we go back” on numerous occasions — says the reaction of the McLaren board has been similar to his own outlook.
“They had the same reaction we all had, which was to dust ourselves off. We’re racers. You’re going to win some, you’re going to lose some. Learn by it.
“I think it’s easy to have an initial reaction of quitting if you’re not successful at something, but I don’t think that’s the conviction of McLaren dating back to Bruce McLaren. I’ve heard the stories — obviously I wasn’t there — of when Bruce had his accident. I think it was three days later, the team was racing. I think that’s the tenacity that this racing team has.”
Brown also says it would be unfair to blame Carlin for his team’s failure to qualify, saying many of the mistakes McLaren made — including not having the back-up car ready after Alonso’s crash in practice because it had been sent to be repainted a different shade of orange — had nothing to do with its partner team.
“I don’t want to compare other teams. It’s clear that McLaren didn’t qualify because of McLaren issues. Carlin was a service provider to help give us bandwidth. Would it have been different with a different partner? I think given the mistakes that we made, I’m not sure anyone would have got us through those other than ourselves.”