McLaren eyes IndyCar team with Alonso (21st Update)
|Is Alonso eyeing a full-time IndyCar ride with McLaren?|
UPDATE Adam Stern of Sports Business Daily writes that IndyCar CEO Mark Miles' thoughts on today's Fernando Alonso/McLaren announcement, which opens the door for IndyCar:
"McLaren is working to put all the necessary arrangements in place. ... I don't expect this to be resolved until closer to the end of this year."
08/13/18 Count Dixon out of this rumor, as expected he has re-signed with Chip Ganassi Racing. Our 2019 IndyCar Silly Season page has been updated accordingly.
|Dixon sticks with Ganassi. Rumors of him ever switching to McLaren were just silly|
08/04/18 Don't be so quick to make assumptions, Zak Brown told Jim Ayello of the Indy Star.
A McLaren Racing-Andretti Autosport partnership in the 2019 IndyCar campaign is no foregone conclusion.
When asked about Michael Andretti reportedly setting a deadline of IndyCar's mid-August race at Pocono to learn McLaren's intentions, Brown said the team is not playing by anyone's deadlines but its own, though he agreed a decision must be reached soon.
"I hadn’t heard that he put a date out there," Brown said. "Also, that’s Michael’s date. That assumes, which everyone does, that we’re going with Michael. And we very well might, but he’s not our only option. But I hadn’t heard any firm date. At the end of the day, we know we have to make a decision here soon or you technically run out of time to be properly prepared. So we are going to have to make a decision soon."
Since speaking with Brown, IndyStar has learned that Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing remains in the mix to partner with McLaren, should a 2019 program materialize.
Both Brown and RLL team co-owner Bobby Rahal declined to comment on this report. However, in a recent phone conversation, Brown did share with IndyStar how close McLaren is to making a decision about joining IndyCar, why the team "must" win upon entering the series and much more.
Question: So where is McLaren right now in terms of its decision to come to IndyCar in 2019?
Answer: We have completed the review process, and we’re in the decision-making process now. As I have said, Formula One is our first and foremost priority. But we believe that joining IndyCar, which I think is more of a when than an if, it has to be a situation where we can be competitive. We believe we can do that. It has to be where we can increase our brand. We think we can do that. We have the resources to do it. We think we have that. And we have to be sure that’s it not a distraction to our Formula One goals.
Right now, we’re laser-focused on Formula One. We have driver decisions to make. We just hired a new technical director. ... That being said, we’re making progress on our Formula One, and we feel we still have time to make a decision on IndyCar for 2019. We're running out of time. I don’t think we have a lot of time for a decision to be made. But we’re close to making a decision on when we’d enter.
|Zak Brown says IndyCar door is still very much open|
Q: How much of this is a waiting game for current Formula One driver Fernando (Alonso) to make a decision? Or has he made one and McLaren is sorting out details?
A: He’s very interested in (IndyCar). He likes the series but hasn’t decided yet what he wants to do as it relates to Formula One. But our decision is not Fernando-dependent.
Q: Why is he so interested in IndyCar at this point of his career?
A: He thinks it’s great racing. He loves the Indy 500. So I think he very much enjoyed that experience. He’s a racer. He likes to race. I think winning not only the Triple Crown but all three series (Formula One, IndyCar, WEC), he probably finds intriguing. And he likes the racing in IndyCar. It’s extremely competitive. And he likes America, so I know it’s something he would consider.
Q: Last year, when you came to the 500 with Fernando, among the top reasons you chose to skip Monaco was because the team was struggling and didn’t have much of a chance in the championship. Is this a similar situation for you and Fernando? You’ve said to European news outlets that it will take years to sort out McLaren’s F1 program, so is his interest in a way defined by that?
A: I think if we were more competitive, he’d definitely want to stay in Formula One. He’s talked about his frustrations about being in a manufacturer’s championship as opposed to a driver’s championship. If you look at the race results, it’s probably a fairly fair statement. He likes to challenge himself. And racing the Indy 500 and/or IndyCar might compel him.
Q: Why is McLaren so interested in coming back to IndyCar now? You have said repeatedly in the past that IndyCar probably wouldn’t be in the cards until the F1 program is restored. It's not there yet, so why was there a change in mentality?
A: We have some partners that are interested in a larger U.S. presence. Our automotive business in North America is a very important market. Formula One in Miami is being delayed, so we’re only in the United States once. We just think it’s time to take a bigger look in North America … that it could maybe round out our commercial platform for our partners.
Q: So McLaren Racing's current sponsors have interest in exploring the North American market
Q: What can you say about the rumored pursuit of Scott Dixon?
A: We have a few different drivers options. If we get a team put together, we’ll leave the driver announcement to be a surprise element of the deal, should something come together.
Q: Fair enough. How important is it for McLaren to come to IndyCar and not just compete right away, but win.
A: It’s a must. That’s what McLaren’s DNA is all about. It’s about winning races and championships. Formula One is going to take time to rebuild because of the uniqueness of Formula. But in IndyCar where everyone has the same chassis, and it’s one of the series in which both engines are very competitive, then it comes down to having a race-winning team and a race-winning fiber, and we think we could bring both those to the party from the word go. Therefore, the four ingredients you need to win, two are the same for everyone. I'm not saying we will win. I don’t want to make predictions, but that’s the goal.
Q: And McLaren coming to IndyCar isn’t just a dipping toes in the water situation, right? You want to be in the series for the long haul?
A: No, no, no. When we eventually come to IndyCar, whenever that may be, it will be the start of a long commitment to the series.
Q: Is the long-term plan to split off on your own after partnering with a team for a few years?
A: I think how we go racing in IndyCar has a couple different directions it could go, and everything is on the table.
07/27/18 As for McLaren running IndyCar in 2019 with the Andretti team, “We could do as many as six [cars],” Andretti told RACER Friday morning at Mid-Ohio. Although AR1.com European sources say IndyCar is off the table for McLaren in 2019
On the topic of Alonso, Andretti told Racer “We keep asking him and can’t get an answer," but AR1.com has the answer.
With Chief Designer James Key now onboard and prospects looking up for McLaren in F1 next year, he isn't coming according AR1.com sources. He gets paid more than the entire IndyCar paddock combined. Why would he come to IndyCar to race in front of 15,000 fans and NBCTV viewers of about 400,000 per race when he gets paid $1.5 million per race in F1, races in front of 100,000+ fans at every venue with 50 million watching on TV?
When in doubt, follow the money.
|Zak Brown says rumors of IndyCar team being nixed are 'crap'|
07/08/18 This rumor is upgraded back to 'speculation.' IndyCar CEO Mark Miles told Autoweek Sunday that McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown said rumors of McLaren deciding not to join IndyCar in 2019 are “crap.”
“I was in communication with Zak this weekend and he told me those rumors are ‘crap.’ That’s what I’ve heard most recently and that is all I know at this point,” Miles told Autoweek at Iowa Speedway. “I inquired when I saw the rumor and I got a reply from Zak when I inquired about that. “We’re hopeful they can step forward and participate next year. We are waiting on them to make that decision.
“To me, anything else unless it comes from McLaren is pure speculation.”
07/06/18 This rumor is downgraded to 'false' today. McLaren has scrapped its Indycar plans for 2019 and Zak Brown was overruled. The move was being planned by Zak Brown, but a performance and management crisis within the Woking based team means the Indy dream is the victim.
Auto Motor und Sport reports that the plan is "on hold" on the instruction of team financiers Mansour Ojjeh and the Bahrain royal family.
07/04/18 "We haven't made any decisions on a potential IndyCar program. Right now we are laser focused on F1," Zak Brown told Adam Stern of Sports Business Daily.
07/04/18 This rumor is downgraded to 'speculation' and we suspect it will soon go to 'false.'
According to AR1.com sources, we are hearing that McLaren, after seeing the hideous NBCSN TV ratings and learning that IndyCar, having lost ESPN and ESPN International, going dark outside of North America, have nixed their plans for an IndyCar team.
And learning that over-the-top distribution will lower TV ratings even further, it pretty much cemented the decision.
|Will Dixon be a McLaren/Andretti driver in 2019?|
06/27/18 Our observations around the Ganassi team this weekend lead us to believe Scott Dixon may indeed be headed to the McLaren/Andretti team. Dixon did not seem like his old self, a bit agitated, and the team members appeared distracted. While this is no confirmation Dixon is leaving the team, the team aura at Road America was different, making us think something is up.
We also wonder how much the fact that Scott Dixon and Bruce McLaren were both Kiwi's weighs in their decision to pursue Dixon.
06/25/18 IndyCar driver Scott Dixon confirmed to Autoweek that he has been contacted by McLaren about the possibility of joining the team in the Verizon IndyCar Series next season, but said his focus for 2018 is to win a fifth series championship for Chip Ganassi Racing.
Dixon finished third in Sunday’s KOHLER Grand Prix at Road America and did a great job of not letting the McLaren situation distract him from his focus over the weekend.
“We constantly talk to other people, but it’s not in a situation where we are shopping around or looking to move,” Dixon told Autoweek. “A lot of these scenarios, I have known these people for over 15 years. Zak Brown (McLaren CEO), in general, that storyline is pumping up a little bit more. I have known Zak since 1999, when he was running ‘Track Attack,’ so I have known the guy for a long time.
“I speak to him on a frequent basis, but that has been the same for many years.”
|When he heard only a few hundred thousand people see an IndyCar race on NBCSN and there is no international TV distribution after this year, we suspect Alonso lost all interest in running a full season in IndyCar|
06/24/18 Formula 1 champion Fernando Alonso has been mentioned as a possibility to drive in the IndyCar Series in 2019 in either a one-off return to the Indianapolis 500 or a full season on the American open-wheel circuit.
According to a story in the Times of London, the former is an option. The latter is not.
The double world champion has spent much of this year fending off questions about his future, with his contract with McLaren up at the end of this season. There is an option for next year and McLaren are eyeing an entry into IndyCar, but a whole season in America does not appeal to Alonso.
His only interest is the Indy500, which he competed in last year but was forced to retire, as he continues his bid to complete motor racing’s triple crown -- winning the Monaco Grand Prix, Le Mans and the Indy500. He is two thirds of the way to becoming only the second man in history, after Graham Hill, to complete the hat-trick.
Verizon IndyCar Series team owner Michael Andretti said McLaren needs to make a decision in the next month for it to be involved with Andretti Autosport for a full-time team in 2019.
“It has to happen within the next month, I’m hoping,” Andretti told Autoweek Saturday. “Otherwise, it’s going to be tough to pull off.”
It’s been understood that McLaren would team up with Andretti Autosport in 2019 to bring the iconic Formula 1 team back to the Verizon IndyCar Series for a full-time effort for the first time since 1978. But team owner Andretti told Autoweek that McLaren needs to make its official decision soon in order for that to happen in time for next year.
“I’m not sure yet,” Andretti told Autoweek. “They are still looking at it. I think they were hoping to be a little more competitive in Formula 1 this season. I don’t know where they are at, at this moment. Hopefully, they will be able to get it together and we can do it.
“But it’s starting to be a little late.”
Andretti has four drivers signed under contract for next season to be part of Andretti Autosport including 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner and 2012 Verizon IndyCar Series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay, 2016 Indy 500 winner Alexander Rossi, two-time IndyCar race winner Marco Andretti and rookie driver Zach Veach.
A McLaren entry in partnership with Andretti would have to be an extra car or two added to the field.
“It would be an added car,” Andretti said.
|Latifi and Alonso teammates for the Indy 500?|
06/21/18 As we have rumored for months, hearing the McLaren IndyCar effort will happen with a single car for the 2019 season with Latifi money and Nicholas Latifi in the seat, but they will run a 2nd car in the Indy 500 for Fernando Alonso if he decides to run in the 500 next year and miss the Monaco GP. If the McLaren F1 car is not competitive, then he will be glad to miss Monaco.
Racer is rumoring that Dixon may get the McLaren seat but Latifi money isn't going to be used for Dixon and who is going to both pay Dixon's salary and pay to field the car? We also feel it will be a cold day in hell before Chip Ganassi lets Dixon get away. Rumors of Dixon to McLaren are just to get the Chipster to open his wallet to keep his star driver.
06/18/18 Zak Brown insists his team will make its IndyCar decision regardless of Alonso's plan.
"Whether we do IndyCar or not will not be driven by whether Fernando wants to do it or not," he said. "We could do it with him, if that's what he decides. We could very much do it without him. We can't make decisions about where we race based upon what a driver wants to do.
"If he was racing with another team, that wouldn't deter us from racing. I think what we're talking to Fernando about is very long term. I think that's what he's got in mind. I think Fernando's first choice is to stay in the McLaren family."
"The ball's in our court to ultimately decide if we're going to do it and how we're going to do it. We've got a couple of different scenarios, so I think we're close to making a decision.
"I've seen some people say 'why don't you get your Formula One sorted?'. We're a big company, and because we wouldn't use Formula One resources, one [series] doesn't have anything to do with another. If it's a good time for us to enter IndyCar, or if it's a good time for us to enter World Endurance, it really has nothing to do with our Formula One.
"I see some of the critics out there, and I think it's a fair question. But we're big enough an organisation we can run different programs without disturbing other programs."
|Michael Andretti talks to Fernando Alonso|
06/17/18 Now that Alonso has won the 24 Hours of LeMans he said he will try to conquer the Indy 500 'soon' and complete the triple crown. Look for Alonso to run the 2019 Indy 500 in a joint McLaren/Andretti effort.
06/09/18 Michael Andretti, the owner of the Andretti Autosports team which helped McLaren and Fernando Alonso contest last year's Indy 500 and a likely partner in any full-time venture, was Brown's guest on Friday and Saturday in Montreal for the F1 race.
"We're seriously considering IndyCar," Brown said. We've been doing due diligence for quite some time. As stated before, if we're going to get into other forms of motorsport which McLaren has a great history in we need to do it in a way that first and foremost doesn't compromise our Formula One activities or we won't consider it.
"It needs to be commercially viable, something we feel we can be competitive in and fits our brand. It has to tick all of those boxes, not most of those boxes. We're not done yet with our due diligence but it's looking favorable so we will take a decision in order to be prepared for 2019 sometime in the upcoming months.
"If we're confident all four of those elements really tick those boxes then it's something that we will probably move forward on but we're not done with the journey yet."
The future of Alonso -- who is out of contract at the end of the year -- remains an intriguing part of the discussions and speculation about McLaren's next step. The Spaniard is competing in his 300th F1 race this weekend but has grown increasingly frustrated with the championship in recent years, having not won since 2013.
There is mounting speculation Alonso could stay on board with McLaren in IndyCar if it joined the series, something which would give him the option of returning to F1 once it has returned to competitiveness. Brown says discussions about the two-time world champion's future are ongoing.
"We're in talks with Fernando, as he said it was about this time last year that we started having conversations. He's been doing Formula One a long time, he's enjoying driving as much as he ever has. I think he's driving better than he ever has.
"As he's mentioned I think he's a little frustrated with Formula One being I think as he said becoming more of a constructors' championship than a drivers' championship. He loves Formula 1, he loves World Endurance and Daytona, so hopefully we will keep Fernando in the McLaren environment in some way, shape or form."
|Roger Penske encouraged McLaren to come, but he does not want to partner with McLaren and give away Team Penske's secrets.|
06/03/18 McLaren Executive Director Zak Brown and McLaren advisor Gil de Ferran met with several IndyCar Series team owners and representatives of both engine manufacturers Saturday at the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix. Brown would not divulge the details of those meetings reports Autoweek, but said, “we are continuing to explore all of our opportunities. This is still in the exploratory stage.”
Brown did tell Autoweek that despite past relationships with Honda in both Formula 1 and when Fernando Alonso competed in the 101st Indianapolis 500 in 2017, McLaren could be a Chevrolet entry in IndyCar.
“We are very much interested in Chevrolet, just as we are also interested in Honda,” Brown said. “We are listening to what both sides have to say as we continue to explore our options.”
Among the team owners that Brown met with were Honda-backed Andretti Autosport and Chevrolet’s Team Penske.
“If we get the McLaren team into IndyCar racing, that would be a big step forward,” Penske told Autoweek. “I talked to Zak myself and said, ‘Hey, I hope you guys come. A good team like that can bring a lot of prestige to the series. Certainly, with their expertise they would be a real force to run with. They were a force last year with Andretti.
“I guess we’ll wait and see.”
Penske told Autoweek that Team Penske is not interested in serving as a partner to McLaren in IndyCar because the team is focused on its three-car effort in the series as well as competing in NASCAR and IMSA.
“He needs to keep the McLaren name by itself and not get hooked up with anybody else,” Penske said. “But we’ve got more than we can handle right now, so we are not in the business of partnering right now.
“But I talked to him today and encouraged him to come. That would be great if they came, wouldn’t it? That would be great.”
|Mike Hull encouraged McLaren to come, but he does not want to partner with McLaren and give away Ganassi Racing secrets. That leaves Andretti Autosport or perhaps the Rahal team|
Honda Performance Development (HPD) President Art St. Cyr was approached for comment by AutoWeek but would not give details of those conversations.
“We’re not going to talk about what we are doing here,” St. Cyr said. “Having someone of Fernando Alonso’s caliber in the IndyCar Series would be a good things but figuring how, the what and the where are things that are to be determined.”
“I don’t know what Zak and McLaren have in mind, but I remember the lineage of McLaren Racing and I’m surprised in a way they are looking for a partner,” Mike Hull is the managing director of Chip Ganassi Racing told Autoweek. “I think they should run their own team and be in it for the long haul. I think it would be grand and great for American racing to see McLaren Racing back at full speed and in it for the long haul as McLaren Racing.
“I don’t know why a worthy team would want to give McLaren an inside view of how you go IndyCar racing.”
Hull said despite what he previously said, “we would be open to helping them, but it would be in our best interest and McLaren’s best interest to have a long-term agreement.”
Team owner Michael Andretti said he talks to Brown all the time because they are friends.
“We shall see,” Andretti told Autoweek of McLaren’s exploration.
06/02/18 Zak Brown was meeting with Michael Andretti this morning in Detroit. If McLaren decides to field an IndyCar in 2019 look for it to be in conjunction with the Andretti team.
06/01/18 A few weeks ago, Michael Latifi bought 10% of McLaren group’s stock, leading to speculation that his son Nicholas Latifi may get an F1 seat in exchange.
But according to a source in the paddock, the plan is to put the Latifi junior, along with the star driver Fernando Alonso in the Woking team’s new IndyCar venture.
Initially, the outfit is looking at a 2019 entry by signing up with an existing team like the Andrettis for support, and at a later stage become a fully independent outfit.
Last year Alonso took part in Indy500 with Andretti under McLaren colors and came close to winning the race. But more importantly, he got a lot of media coverage.
Zak Brown has not been shy in talking about his intent to return the British outfit to IndyCar. The recent infusion by Latifi Sr. could give the Woking squad the push needed to expand its racing program.
Nicholas Latifi is still far from receiving his super license which needs 40 points. He is currently running with 20 points and to reach 40, he will have to finish the F2 championship within the top 5.
|With Trump's economy hitting on all 8-cylinders and unemployment at record lows, IndyCar is becoming more and more flush with sponsor money|
In case the youngster misses the cutoff, he will still get a chance to drive in the IndyCar and earn points to get his FIA license and finally reach F1.
There is one more important reason for the IndyCar venture. Canada GP will be Alonso’s 300th grand prix and the two-time world champion is said to be tired of the Formula 1 format. The Spaniard is raring to get back to pursuing his dream of triple-crown. McLaren’s new venture would allow him to continue his quest.
In June, Alonso will tackle the Le Mans 24 hours and is said to be the favorite to win. If he wins that, the only thing left to win is the Indy500 race. So the champ will shift his attention away from F1 for sure.
With the proposed budget cap coming into the picture from 2021, McLaren is keen to get into another series, and if they can hold on to Alonso, their chances become even brighter for a better start.
With the Latifi money, Alonso at the driving seat and the Andretti connection, Indy series looks pretty good, even for junior Latifi.
|Gil de Ferran talks to Zak Brown. They will be at the Detroit race this weekend|
06/01/18 McLaren boss Zak Brown will attend this weekend's "Dual in Detroit" IndyCar double header at Belle Isle as the Woking-based outfit continues to mull a full-time involvement in the series as soon as next year.
McLaren's representatives, including the team's new consultant, former IndyCar driver Gil de Ferran, held exploratory talks with prospective partners early last month, over the Indy Grand Prix weekend at the Brickyard.
"Gil and I and a few more McLaren people will be in Detroit meetings," Brown told RACER's Marshall Pruett.
"No decision this weekend and no firm timeline," Brown added however.
As McLaren conducts its due diligence on fielding a full-time entry in the future, Andretti Autosport appears as the team's most likely partner given the pair's association in 2017 when Andretti ran Fernando Alonso in the Indy 500.
But reports from RACER suggest that Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing could be considered a potential IndyCar associate, although team boss Bobby Rahal believes the British manufacturer's most logical choice remains Andretti Autosport.
"Regarding McLaren, Zak’s obviously a friend, and many people may not know we were asked to run their Indy program last year.
"We didn’t know who the driver was, but we didn’t have enough people or equipment, so we had to decline,” Bobby Rahal said.
"Obviously, it came out later it would be McLaren with Alonso, and I would have loved to do it, but there’s nothing to really add to it.
"That was then and this is now. Would we like to be involved with McLaren? Who wouldn’t. But I think that just by having that year of experience together, Andretti’s the favored choice."
If McLaren ties up once again with Andretti, who would be its favorite driver? All signs appear to point to the talented Mr. Alonso…
05/28/18 McLaren are considering entering IndyCar racing next year in a move that could see Fernando Alonso switch to the North American series.
Zak Brown, the British team’s chief executive, will travel to Detroit this weekend to meet two leading IndyCar teams (rumored to be Andretti and Rahal) to discuss joining forces. He will be accompanied by Gil de Ferran, the two-time IndyCar champion and Indy 500 winner, who has recently joined McLaren as a consultant.
IndyCar teams can enter three or four cars and McLaren plans to partner an existing team next year before a potential move to go it alone.
America is the biggest market for McLaren’s road cars and they are eager to make a bigger push into the country. The financial commitment would not be too big either. In Formula One, teams can spend anywhere from $100 million a year up to $400 million in the case of Ferrari. In IndyCar, the biggest budgets are about $15 million a year for the top teams.
Alonso’s current agreement with McLaren includes another one-year option which would extend his stay to the end of the 2019 season.
Talks between the two parties are scheduled to take place during the summer break in August, which is when we could learn that Alonso will be a full-time IndyCar driver in 2019.
|Look for Alonso to drive fulltime in 2018 for the Andretti-McLaren team|
05/25/18 Following reports in the United States last week that McLaren was weighing up an IndyCar entry in 2019, Zak Brown confirms a program is "under review" with help from Gil de Ferran.
McLaren returned to the Indy 500 in 2017 for the first time since 1979 as part of a joint entry with Honda and Andretti Autosport that saw Fernando Alonso make his debut in the race, with the two-time Formula 1 world champion qualifying fifth and leading early on before ultimately retiring due to an engine failure.
"Gil’s a good friend of McLaren, we have brought him on as an advisor to McLaren. We want him to help with our young drivers," Brown said.
"We are looking at some other forms of motorsport. Most notably IndyCar is under review. He obviously has great history there, having owned a team, won the Indy 500 - and generally is a great racer that knows his way around a garage.
"Any expertise he has that he can volunteer to help us improve, we’re very open-minded to that. So you’ll see him around, in Detroit at the IndyCar race in a couple of weeks’ time and around our Formula 1 garage often."
Adam Stern of Sports Business Daily tweets that McLaren F1 is exploring a possible full-time entry into the Verizon IndyCar Series in 2019, per sources, as part of a joint entry with either the Andretti Autosport or Rahal Letterman Lanigan teams.
McLaren staff was on site at the Indianapolis Grand Prix at IMS this past weekend developing the venture. A potential driver and sponsorship were unclear.
The addition of McLaren to the IndyCar paddock would be a significant boost for the series, which saw substantial global interest when Alonso ran the 500.
McLaren and RLL declined comment but Andretti Autosport responded with the tweet to the right.
Andretti ran Alonso last year in the 500 and he loves the team. Plus Andretti is already teamed with Zak Brown in an Australian SuperCars team.
We suspect McLaren will start with a joint venture with the Andretti team, much like Andretti has a joint venture with the Bryan Herta team, with all cars serviced out of the Andretti Autosport facility in Indianapolis.
Look for Fernando Alonso to possibly quit F1 where he has zero percent chance to win given F1 is 99% car and 1% driver, and come to IndyCar where driver talent wins races. Mark C. reporting for AR1.com