McLaren’s failure to qualify for this year’s Indianapolis 500 makes it “highly unlikely” it will enter the series full-time in 2020, according to Zak Brown.
McLaren’s arrival at Indy as a standalone entry delivered a catalogue of errors, including a full day of practice missed just 48 hours before qualifying, and resulted in Fernando Alonso missing out on a place in the race. Following that failure, McLaren Racing CEO Brown believes that the team needs to understand how to get the 500 right before taking on an expanded IndyCar program.
“I think it’s highly unlikely we’ll be in IndyCar full-time next year,” Brown told RACER. “As enthusiastic as I am for IndyCar, given where we are in Formula 1, given what we just went through at Indy, I’d like to see us go back to Indy and get that right as a next step instead of totally jumping in. So I think it’s highly unlikely we’re in IndyCar full-time in 2020.”
Brown has also ruled out any further IndyCar entries this season despite having both a car and Alonso available, although he says that the team’s experiences over the past few weeks have reinforced the value of running additional races in the lead-up to next year’s 500.
“Could we do races before Indy next year in preparation? Yeah, that’s something we’ve spoken about,” he said. “So that will be all part of the thinking. Had we got into the show, we missed all the pit stop practice. We were practicing over the months in the race shop and things like that, but Thursday was the pit stop practice day, and we missed that. So we would have gone into Indy cold.
“So one of things we’ve discussed, we’ve started to throw around that we should have done the road race. Even though it wouldn’t have taught us anything about the set-up of the car, operationally it was good practice. So definitely not this year, but probably if we go back to Indy, doing a race or two in preparation for Indy feels like good preparation.”
Alonso was seeking the Triple Crown of Monaco Grand Prix, Le Mans 24 Hour and Indy 500 victories this year, and has yet to confirm whether he will try again in 2020. Although Brown says McLaren’s interest in competing in IndyCar is not dependent on Alonso’s presence, he also says he has not spoken to any other drivers about piloting a McLaren entry at IMS next year.
“No I haven’t, because I don’t want to mess anybody about. If we’re not going to come on a full-time basis and I’m having talks with drivers… I’m misleading them. I don’t want to mislead any drivers. We got fairly close (to a full-time entry) this year, so I did have conversations because we were close. But knowing that, it’s highly unlikely – I wouldn’t want to start messing drivers about.”