Hopes for a potential full-time McLaren Verizon IndyCar Series entry have improved after reports emerged that representatives from the team are in Indianapolis to discuss possible deals. It is said that McLaren is currently evaluating their chances of joining the grid for next year’s 2019 season, with hopes of securing a joint entry with either Andretti Autosport or Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.
According to Sports Business Daily on Twitter, sources state that McLaren staff have been in America in the run-up to this month’s Indianapolis 500 to continue discussions with multiple parties about a possible 2019 full-time entry.
Both McLaren and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing declined to comment when asked by Sports Business Daily, but Andretti Autosport released the following statement earlier today:
“We think McLaren would be a valuable addition to the IndyCar paddock.” the statement read, “Our partnership for the 2017 Indy 500 proved to be successful and we would welcome the opportunity to work with them again. As for any of McLaren’s plans, that is a question best directed to McLaren.”
McLaren made their long-awaited return to the Verizon IndyCar Series last year in a one-off appearance in the 2017 Indianapolis 500. Their Formula 1 driver, Fernando Alonso, made the shock decision to miss the 2017 Monaco Grand Prix in order to contest the race, with the Spaniard hoping to complete stage two of the famous “triple crown” achievement; winning the Monaco Grand Prix, the Indianapolis 500 and the 24 hours of Le Mans.
The team partnered with Andretti Autosport for the venture, with Alonso performing excellently throughout the month of May. Fernando would qualify a superb fifth place for the race and would go on to run near the front of the pack for much of the race. He led many laps, but he was heartbreakingly put out of contention after, once again, a Honda engine broke down on him.
Alonso and McLaren are not returning to Indianapolis for this year’s race, with Fernando now dovetailing his Formula 1 commitments with a full-time entry in the World Endurance Championship with Toyota. In his first start at the 6 hours of Spa-Francorchamps two weeks ago, he claimed his first race win, driving alongside Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima.
With Toyota looking like they will dominate the LMP1 class in the WEC Super season, Alonso has a serious chance of winning at Le Mans; which would leave only the Indy 500 on his checklist to complete the triple crown. This would undoubtedly make Alonso consider returning to the race in 2019; even more so if McLaren enters the entire season.
All of this, partnered with Fernando’s continuing frustrations with the current state of Formula 1, makes him the most likely driver to race with McLaren if the team do choose to enter IndyCar full-time in 2019.
Far too little is known about the potential entry to speculate much further, but other McLaren associated drivers such as Nyck De Vries, Lando Norris or Oliver Turvey could get the nod if Alonso stays put in Formula 1. As The team’s former driver Kevin Magnussen could also have a shot at the seat, with the Dane having stated in March that he has “dreamt” of racing in IndyCar one day.
The next race in the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series is the Indianapolis 500 on May 27. First practice begins tomorrow, with qualifying taking place this weekend on May 19 and 20.