Fernando Alonso will return to the cockpit of a Verizon IndyCar Series machine next week in a test with Andretti Autosport, which is believed to be taking place at Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama on Wednesday. The Spaniard will be back with the team that he raced for in the 2017 Indianapolis 500, with the test undoubtedly a stepping stone toward a full-time drive in the championship next year.
Alonso announced last month that he would not be taking part in next year’s FIA Formula 1 World Championship. The announcement added a huge amount of gasoline to the already blazing fire of rumours regarding Alonso’s plans for the future; with many believing that Alonso would return to IndyCar to try and complete the famous “triple crown” by winning the Indianapolis 500. The 500 is the only event left on his “to-do” list, having already got the Monaco Grand Prix and 24 Hours of Le Mans victories on his résumé.
Today’s confirmation of an IndyCar test next week means that the chances of Alonso going state-side in 2019 are very high indeed. The news came out in an interview with McLaren CEO Zak Brown with Spanish TV, with Brown stating that Alonso “has not yet decided what he wants to do” next year.
“Alonso is going to do tests next week.” Brown said in the interview, “He has not yet decided what he wants to do, he is part of the Mclaren family, the test is with Andretti. We’re working with IndyCar on what we want to do in the future.”
Alonso made his IndyCar debut in 2017 when he made the shock announcement that he would miss the 2017 Monaco Grand Prix to go and compete at the Indy 500 in the #29 McLaren/Andretti Autosport Honda. The two-time Formula 1 world champion was massively impressive, qualifying right up at the sharp end in fifth place. He would go on to run up towards the front and would even lead twenty-seven laps before his Honda engine let go and forced him to retire from the race.
Alonso elected not to return to Indianapolis Motor Speedway this year and instead elected to take his extra-curricular activities to the World Endurance Championship. Fernando signed a contract to race the entire 2018/2019 super season with Toyota GAZOO Racing in the LMP1 class. The partnership has so far proven prosperous, with Alonso having taken victories at both Spa-Francorchamps and Le Mans; with the latter victory crucially leaving him with only the Indy 500 to win in order to secure the triple crown.
Alonso has stated before that if he were to return to the Indy 500, he would want to compete in a number of rounds beforehand so that he can be as best prepared as possible for the all-important race. This, coupled with the knowledge that McLaren was pursuing a full-time entry into the Verizon IndyCar Series, put a lot of hopes on a full-time campaign for Alonso in the series next year.
With the further information now that Alonso will be leaving Formula 1 and that he is conducting the road course test next week, it seems almost inevitable that we will see Fernando in an IndyCar on at least once occasion next year.
The team that he will compete with is not yet set in stone. With next week’s test being with Andretti, the IndyCar front-running squad seem the most likely candidates to sign Fernando. However, further rumours have linked Alonso to a possible seat with Harding Racing, a newer team that would reportedly begin an affiliation with Andretti should Alonso join.
It has not been officially confirmed when and where the test will be run, but all signs seem to be pointing toward a closed event at Alabama’s Barber Motorsports Park on Wednesday, September 5.
The next round of the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series, the Grand Prix of Portland, takes place this weekend on Sunday, September 2. Andretti’s Alexander Rossi currently sits second in the standings, as he continues to try and hunt down championship leader Scott Dixon.