Fernando Alonso revealed Wednesday through his Instagram account that he’s got a ride for the 2020 Indianapolis 500 so by process of elimination all signs point to it being with Arrow McLaren SP. But this saga got more interesting when Michael Andretti said that it wasn’t Honda that put the kabosh on his Indy program for the two-time Formula 1 champion.
In a story last month on RACER.com, Andretti was optimistic that Alonso was set to rejoin his operation before RACER’s Chris Medland and Marshall Pruett broke the news on Feb. 2 that Honda of Japan would not allow the Spaniard to run their engine. There was never a statement from Andretti or Honda concerning the matter but the former IndyCar star made a rather shocking claim about it during today’s press conference announcing James Hinchcliffe would drive his No. 29 car.
“It didn’t happen because we couldn’t come to terms,” said Andretti of the Alonso deal. “Our contract allows us to run whomever we want but Honda isn’t to blame. Nobody is to blame. It just didn’t work out but everything turned out just fine with James and Genesys.”
Asked how money could possibly be a deterrent for a multi-millionaire like Alonso, who was keen to be competitive again at Indy like he was in 2017, Andretti replied: “It might not be all about money.”
So this would leave the question: Is Alonso available to another powerhouse Honda team like Chip Ganassi Racing?
“There has never been a conversation from Fernando or his group or Honda approaching us,” said Mike Hull, the managing director at Ganassi. “We were a little surprised nobody reached out to us and stretching to run a fourth car would have been difficult at best but nobody made any overtures from Fernando’s camp or Honda. And Honda never told us we couldn’t run him.
“It would be great to run a person of Alonso’s stature if you were in a position to do it the right way and certainly Michael could have done it. But it was never on the table with us. Our team was never in a position to ask our engine partner, Honda. We’re just curious bystanders like everyone else.”
So with Hinch being reunited with a team he drove and won for in 2012-14, it appears Alonso only has one option for May. Roger Penske won’t field a fifth car and Ed Carpenter isn’t running a fourth car, so it’s got to be with the newly formed partnership of Arrow, McLaren and Schmidt Peterson. And Chevrolet power.
When asked Tuesday about bringing Alonso to IMS to join Pato O’Ward and Oliver Askew, McLaren CEO Zak Brown texted this response to RACER: “Nothing set. Still looking at it.”
Co-owner Sam Schmidt said he doesn’t have Alonso’s phone number and hasn’t talked to Brown in a couple days.
“I have no agreement with Alonso but that doesn’t mean Zak isn’t talking to him.” said Schmidt. “I’ve said religiously the last eight months he’s an F1 champ and there is nothing better for the Indy 500 or series as a whole than for him to be here. It would be mega. He needs to be in the Indy 500.”