Fernando Alonso’s 2017 Indianapolis 500 ride was only made possible by the decision by Stefan Wilson to relinquish his planned drive with Andretti Autosport, with the British racer now focused on returning to the race in 2018.
Mark Miles, the CEO of Hulman & Company, which owns the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Verizon IndyCar Series, has revealed that there was likelihood that Alonso would have been unlikely to debut in this years event without the selfless move by Wilson, who was aiming to compete in his second consecutive Indy 500.
Wilson, the brother of the late Justin Wilson, had sponsorship in place for the race, but Andretti Autosport will collaborate with McLaren to fulfil Alonso’s dream of racing in the Indy 500.
“We talked about the possibilities, and then we approached some of our Honda teams,” said Miles. “At one point in time, we were kind of long-faced because it looked like there was no ride available.
“The equipment was all spoken for or there were no other engines or cars out there that we thought we could make available.
“That was kind of a dark day. Not long after that, we started a conversation with Stefan Wilson, who had lined up a Honda ride with Andretti that was well sponsored.
“He is such a terrific guy. We had a long dialogue that was over the course of a couple days and agreed that if we could take care of his sponsors, in other words, get them the benefits that they had bargained for were he to stay in the car in 2017 and if he could have future IndyCar opportunities, then he would be happy to cooperate with us to achieve this possibility for McLaren and Alonso.
“All of that was taken care of, and he will run in the Indianapolis 500 in 2018, and he will be very visible and much a part of the IndyCar scene and here at IMS and not just this May and throughout the year and in the driver’s seat in 2018.
“So we are very grateful to Stefan. It’s basically how it came together.”