McLaren Racing has today announced that Bob Fernley, former deputy team principal of Force India F1 Team, will oversee the McLaren entry in the 2019 Indianapolis 500. Fernley was named as the president of McLaren IndyCar, who will field Fernando Alonso in next May’s race.
Fernley has prior experience of motorsport in the United States, having most notably been a part of the Ensign team in IndyCar in the 1980’s.
In his new role with McLaren Racing, Fernley will lead the team’s IndyCar entry in 2019, an entry that will involve a completely separate group of mechanics and staff from the pre-existing Formula 1 team. Fernley will report to McLaren CEO Zak Brown, whilst McLaren will continue to evaluate the possibility of entering the IndyCar Series full-time in the not too distant future.
“Heading back to the Brickyard will be a very special experience for me,” Fernley said in today’s announcement. “I am proud to be leading this McLaren project and team. The 500 is a hell of a challenge and we have incredibly strong competitors to overcome if we’re to be successful. We will need to prepare well for the month of May and that work starts now.”
It was announced last week that McLaren would be heading back for another attempt at the Indianapolis 500 with Fernando Alonso behind the wheel. It will be the team’s second attempt after having last taken part in the 2017 Indianapolis 500, where Alonso impressed on his oval racing debut by qualifying in fifth place and leading much of the race before an engine problem forced him into retirement.
The team previously competed in the Indy 500 as a part of an affiliation with the Andretti Autosport team. Whilst it is believed that Andretti will be involved once again after comments made by the team’s principal Michael Andretti on Twitter, it is understood that McLaren will be taking a much great role in the entry this time around. The team is also rumoured to be considering a second car in the 2019 race.
With the team set to take a much more involved role in the IndyCar entry next year, a great leader could be a fantastic asset for McLaren IndyCar. McLaren CEO Zak Brown commented today that he believes Bob Fernley’s “experience and leadership will be essential” for the team in 2019 and that he was “delighted” that Bob was involved.
“Bob is a fantastic operator and someone I respect greatly,” Brown said. “His experience and leadership will be essential for us on this project. He is particularly talented at putting effective teams together and extracting maximum performance with finite resources. The Indy 500 is no easy race and Bob’s is a key role, so I’m delighted he’s on board.”
The 2019 IndyCar Series will kick-off with the season-opening Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on Sunday, March 10. The 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500 will take place later in the season on Sunday, May 26, with McLaren most likely to commence testing in the month leading up to the race.