Jenson Button, Jimmie Johnson, Fernando Alonso, and any of the other guest drivers McLaren Racing had on its short list for special appearances in a third Arrow McLaren SP IndyCar entry will likely need to wait until 2021 to race in one of its Chevy-powered machines.
Ongoing schedule changes in reaction to the coronavirus, and the subsequent decision by IndyCar to eliminate in-season testing, have caused the blended Arrow SPM and McLaren Racing outfit to put its third-car plans on hold. According to McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown, the AMSP team will place its full focus on Pato O’Ward and Oliver Askew, the promising full-time drivers representing the Indiana-based outfit in the NTT IndyCar Series. Brown also reconfirmed Fernando Alonso will join the team, as previously announced, for the Indy 500.
“Our decision to go with two young drivers, two Indy Lights champions, is an exciting line-up,” Brown said. “We know rookie drivers will make some mistakes; so will some experienced drivers. Our plans for 2020 are now changed because of the lack of testing available. I think the other drivers that we’re talking to recognize how difficult IndyCar racing is; they have a tremendous amount of recognition for the drivers, and while they’re confident in their ability to be successful, they recognize they need to test. So I think the likelihood now, of a third car popping up in 2020, is probably unlikely.”
Despite the change of plans, AMSP’s interest in sampling Formula 1 and NASCAR veterans remains as part of a bigger initiative.
“The original plan was, let’s get through the first half of the year, let’s make sure we have a good Indianapolis, and then let’s test some of these guys and see if they want to try a race or two, because maybe that would lead to something on a more full-time basis in 2021,” Brown said. “I don’t think we’d ever have guest appearances just for the sake of guest appearances; it would be because it could lead to something else.”
“I think now, with the restricted schedule, potentially no testing, it’s highly unlikely any driver of that caliber would just think they can hop into a car Friday morning and practice at a track they’ve never been at, and be competitive. And these drivers are too professional, and want to be prepared, and would not put themselves in that situation. So I think it’s probably going to be a ‘wait till 2021’ to replay what we were looking to accomplish in 2020.”
Note: This story has been updated to clarify that Fernando Alonso’s Indy 500 entry remains part of the team’s plans.