Indianapolis 500: Fernando Alonso to drive for McLaren at famous race

Ross Houston
February 27, 2020

"That's not a reflection on him, we have two great young drivers who are really fast that are working well together".

The primary backer for Alonso's auto will be Ruoff Mortgage, a longtime Andretti Autosport sponsor that backed Takuma Sato's 2017 Indy 500-winning vehicle.

Nothing went right from the beginning. The team struggled to obtain a steering wheel in time for testing.

On the final morning of qualifying, wholesale changes were made to the auto in a frantic effort to get Alonso into the race. But a team member incorrectly converted settings when switching the numbers from the metric to imperial system and the vehicle bottomed out as Alonso attempted a lap. Alonso was scathingly critical of the Japanese manufacturer during his final stint at McLaren and it has since decided he will never race one of their cars - he since won the Le Mans 24 Hours and World Endurance Championship with Toyota, a Honda rival.

Gil De Ferran, McLaren's sporting director and a two-time Indycar champion who won the Indy in 2001, is one of the bosses of the team.

"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 place with McLaren, we've been through a lot together and that creates a bond, a loyalty that is strong".

Of the squad's full-season entries, 2018 Indy Lights champion Patricio O'Ward finished second in that series' banner race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the Freedom 100, but previous year failed to qualify his Carlin-Chevy in the Indy 500 as an IndyCar Series rookie. Askew, an American, is 23.

With McLaren aligned with two full-time entries for 2020, there is the possibility this year that Alonso might run the Indianapolis Grand Prix on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course as a warmup for the May 24 running of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

"It gives them a chance to watch a world-class professional", Brown said.

"I am impressed with how the new organization and operation is developing into a strong package with the Chevrolet partnership", Alonso said.

Alonso, who made his highly impressive Indy 500 debut with a McLaren-backed Andretti Autosport entry in 2017, failed to qualify for last year's 500 in a purely McLaren-run vehicle, and when he ditched his ambassadorial role for the famous Woking, UK-based brand in January, it freed him up to negotiate with Michael Andretti's team.

"Having spoken with Fernando, I think he's now had one-and-a-half years of experience at Indianapolis", he said, "and he likes having very competitive teammates".

Alonso finished 13th on his Dakar Rally debut in January, almost five hours behind victor Carlos Sainz.

"I know Helio (Castroneves) and some of the big guys are doing it as preparation", Alonso said.

Alonso, who raced last month in the Dakar Rally, said the Indy 500 would have his full focus over the next three months. "It will also be great to work with Oliver and Pato, two fantastic young talents for the future who are growing all the time".

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