Arrow McLaren SP has today announced that Fernando Alonso will race for the team in the #66 Chevrolet in the 2020 Indianapolis 500. This year will be Alonso’s third attempt at the Indy 500 and will also be the third time he has entered the race with McLaren.
As was the case during his last two attempts at the famous race, Alonso’s focus will be set entirely on winning the race to secure the final leg of the “triple crown” of motorsport. With wins in Formula 1‘s Monaco Grand Prix and the World Endurance Championship‘s 24 Hours of Le Mans, Alonso just needs to win the NTT IndyCar Series‘ Indianapolis 500 to join only Graham Hill as a victor of all three events.
“I am a racer and the Indy 500 is the greatest race in the world,” said Alonso of the Indianapolis 500 in today’s announcement. “I love the incredible fans who make it so special for all of us drivers and make me want to come back. I have maximum respect for this race and everyone who competes in it, and all I want to do is race against them and give my best, as always.”
Alonso’s first attempt at the Indianapolis 500 came back in 2017 whilst he was still racing in Formula 1 with McLaren. Alonso and McLaren partnered with Andretti Autosport for that year, with Alonso qualifying in fifth-place and leading the race until retiring with an engine failure.
Alonso and McLaren returned to the Indy 500 in 2019, with McLaren a separate entry receiving technical assistance from Carlin. However, this time, Alonso and McLaren would fail to qualify for the race after a slew of issues throughout practice and qualifying blighted the effort.
At the end of last year, Alonso announced that he had cut his remaining ties with McLaren, potentially opening the door for him to compete in the Indianapolis 500 with another team; despite the fact that McLaren had begun a partnership with Arrow Schmidt Peterson for a full-time IndyCar effort.
It is believed that Alonso was on the precipice of rejoining Andretti Autosport for the 2020 Indianapolis 500 earlier this month. However, the deal reportedly collapsed at the last minute after Honda – Andretti’s engine supplier – vetoed the deal; most likely due to Alonso’s bad relationship with the manufacturer in Formula 1.
After Honda’s supposed veto, Alonso’s options for the Indianapolis 500 narrowed to Chevrolet-powered teams. With many entries already filled, Alonso’s only realistic and competitive option was to return to McLaren.
“It was important for me to explore my options for this race, but Arrow McLaren SP has always been at the top. I have a special relationship with McLaren; we’ve been through a lot together and that creates a bond, a loyalty that is strong,” Alonso said today of his return to McLaren.
“But more than that, I am impressed with how the new organization and operation is developing into a strong package with the Chevrolet partnership. The team has experienced, well-qualified people and great resources, and I’m confident we can be competitive.
“I’m focused and excited to begin our preparations. It will also be great to work with Oliver [Askew] and Pato [O’Ward], two fantastic young talents for the future who are growing all the time.”
In returning to McLaren, Alonso will also be reunited with his former boss, Zak Brown. Zak said today that he is “delighted” to be working with the two-time Formula 1 champion again and that he is delighted to be welcoming the Spaniard back in with backing from Ruoff Mortgage.
“We’ve always said we’re open to running Fernando in a third car for the 500, so we’re delighted he’s decided to join us,” said Brown. “Fernando is one of the greatest drivers in the sport and it’s fantastic to have him as part of the team. It’s a fine way to contest our first Indy 500 as Arrow McLaren SP and to have Ruoff Mortgage backing Fernando is a perfect partnership.
The 104th running of the Indianapolis 500 will take place on Sunday, May 24. The race will be the sixth round of the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series, which will kick off with the season-opening Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on Sunday, March 15.