Tuesday, Aug 13 12:20pm
AUTHOR: Simon Chapman

McLaren lay IndyCar options on the table for Fernando Alonso

A full-time drive or a one-off appearance in the Indianapolis 500 are both options for Fernando Alonso in next year’s NTT IndyCar Series.


With the announcement of McLaren Racing joining forces with Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, questions have been flying around about who will drive for the team in 2020.


Canadian driver James Hinchcliffe is all but confirmed to join the newly names McLaren Arrow SP outfit, but who will be alongside him is unknown.


It would appear highly unlikely that paraplegic Robert Wickens would be fit to race next season as he continues his recovery from a life-threatening crash sustained a year ago.


This season the team have fielded Formula 1 exile Marcus Ericsson, but questions remain over his future in the team. He has a second place finish to his name but only has two more top 10 finishes to his name this season.


Rumour mill after the McLaren announcement indicates that the Swede is possibly on the move to another team in the IndyCar Series.


The alignment between teams means McLaren will have some say in who fills one of the seats. That decision will be made alongside team co-owners Sam Schmidt and Ric Peterson.


Schmidt confirmed this week that it would be “a few weeks” before any announcements are made around drivers for 2020.


High on that list might be Fernando Alonso who failed to qualify for the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500. The McLaren–Carlin alignment was a well documented disaster with not only Alonso but Patricio O’Ward and Max Chilton both not able to make the cut.


A full-time campaign in the IndyCar Series might not be what Alonso wants as he eyes different challenges in motorsport, such as a Dakar Rally campaign with Toyota.


The two-time Formula 1 champion previously tested the road-course configuration of the current generation Dallara IR18 late in 2018 with Andretti Autosport. That spurred some suggestions a full-time tilt would take place in 2019, but nothing came of those rumours.


McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown said he’ll meet with Alonso at this year’s Italian Grand Prix where they’ll discuss opportunities. While the option to do a full season is available, Brown doubts Alonso would take him up on that offer.  


“He's well aware of everything that's going on with our IndyCar activities and has been for some time,” Brown said.


“I don't think his desire to win the Indy 500 has diminished at all. He has not shown an interest – yet, I should say – in a full season of IndyCar.


“He's coming off of 20 years of lots of racing and I think he wanted to take the second half of this year off to see what he wants to do in the future.


“I think he would be an outstanding talent in IndyCar. I personally think, knowing him as well as I do, and his driving style, he'd be immensely successful and welcomed and would enjoy it.


“But Fernando is the type of individual that you put the opportunity in front of him and let him make his decision.


“So I'll be picking that up with him in about a month's time, but I would not anticipate in 2020 him having a desire to do a full season.”


Photo: IndyCar / Joe Sibinski