A deal that would have seen Fernando Alonso return to Andretti Autosport to contest the 2020 Indianapolis 500 has reportedly been curtailed at the eleventh hour by Honda. The Japanese engine supplier, who supply Andretti with engines in the NTT IndyCar Series, has apparently vetoed Alonso’s return to Andretti for the Indy 500; most likely due to Alonso’s previous and very public criticism of the manufacturer when he raced in Formula 1 with McLaren.
It was widely believed that Andretti Autosport was due to announce Fernando Alonso’s return to the team for this year’s Indianapolis 500 in the coming days. Alonso, still seeking to secure the ‘triple crown’ of motorsport by winning the Indy 500, was set to return to the team in an extra car for the famous race in May after having previously raced for them in his first attempt at the race back in 2017.
However, according to a report today by RACER, Alonso’s hopes of contesting the 2020 Indy 500 with Andretti have been scuppered after the team sought approval for the two-time F1 world champions return from Honda; the team’s engine suppliers.
According to RACER, Andretti was told by Honda Performance Development in Tokyo that they should not rehire Alonso. No official comment has been made by any involved party and no official motive for Honda’s refusal of Alonso has yet to be given, however, it is more than likely that Alonso’s fractious relationship with Honda during his Formula 1 career has burned the bridge between the Spaniard and the Japanese manufacturer.
This stumble at the final hurdle for the Alonso/Andretti deal now leaves Alonso – a very fast and extraordinarily popular driver – without a drive and Andretti – a team that is always in contention for victory at Indianapolis – with a spare seat. Both parties will now be scrambling to rearrange their plans. For Andretti, this will likely be an easy task, as there are plenty of drivers who will be queuing around the block to take the wheel.
For Alonso, things could be trickier. There is no question that he would be able to find a seat on the grid, but finding a seat that gives him the best possible chance at victory will be more of a challenge. With Honda set to deny Alonso any chance in a Honda-powered car, Fernando must now seek a ride in a Chevrolet.
The obvious target for Alonso would be to score a seat at a team such as Chip Ganassi Racing or Team Penske. However, Penske’s four seats for the Indy 500 have already been filled and the team have previously stated that they do not wish to expand any further. Chip Ganassi Racing, too, has also expanded to three full-time cars for 2020 and may not wish to expand any further. Ed Carpenter Racing, another team who usually show good speed at Indianapolis, is in a similar position, with their three usual cars for the Indy 500 already occupied.
One possible Chevrolet entry that Alonso could turn to would be a somewhat familiar one. After McLaren Racing and Alonso’s ill-fated entry in last year’s Indy 500, McLaren forged a partnership with Arrow Schmidt Peterson to form Arrow McLaren SP; who will contest the entire 2020 NTT IndyCar Series with Patricio O’Ward and Oliver Askew. The team are yet to confirm a third entry for the Indy 500, an entry at Alonso could take if he wishes to rekindle his relationship with McLaren after ending his affiliation with the team at the beginning of this year.
Other options could come in the form of A.J. Foyt Racing, DragonSpeed, Juncos Racing and Dreyer & Reinbold Racing.
The 2020 NTT IndyCar Series will kick-off with the season-opening Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on Sunday, March 15. The 104th running of the Indianapolis 500 will take place later on in the season on Sunday, May 24.