McLaren are “barking mad” to let Alonso race at Indianapolis – Horner

2017 F1 season

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Christian Horner poured scorn on Fernando Alonso’s plan to race at the Indianapolis 500, saying McLaren were “barking mad” to permit it.

Speaking in the FIA press conference in Bahrain Horner said McLaren’s willingness to go along with it showed McLaren they are desperate to keep their driver happy.

2017 Bahrain Grand Prix practice in pictures
“It’s a difficult one for Fernando, he’s having a tough time. Zak [Brown] has got a problem, he’s got a depressed driver on his hands, he’s trying to keep him motivated.”

“He’s come up with this idea, send him to Indianapolis. He must be barking mad, it’s the nuttiest race I’ve ever seen.”

“No testing, he’s just going to jump in the car, turn one there’s a proper turn as well and it’s not just easy flat all the way around. So I think he needs to see a psychiatrist, personally.”

“Would we let our drivers do it? No. I believe if a driver commits to a team it’s a bit like disappearing with another girlfriend halfway through the year and then coming back. It doesn’t seem the right thing to be doing.”

“Perhaps if the races didn’t clash, or do it at the end of his Formula One career. But obviously McLaren have got this approach which is perhaps different to ours but good for them.”

Williams deputy team principal Claire Williams also rejected the idea of either of her drivers being allowed to compete at Indianapolis.

“No. I don’t know whether that’s because I’m my father’s daughter and I know Frank probably wouldn’t. But no, I don’t think I would, but I won’t expand on the reasons why.”

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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89 comments on “McLaren are “barking mad” to let Alonso race at Indianapolis – Horner”

  1. Horner is very good at twisting the knife…..

    I have a feeling Ron Dennis needs a new TV and possibly a remote after this week….

    1. Isn’t Mr Dennis “out of” F1? This is actually quite a brilliant move; in another post the other day I was told, very politely, that my old-fashioned thought that F1 was motor racing was incorrect, F1 is “big business.” Let’s see — Fernando Alonso is under contract at $32 million(?) plus sponsorship, and unhappy with reliability; Honda are most probably the only major financial resource to the F1 side of McLaren; Liberty media need openings into the US market; Honda have got a “better” engine in the Indy series; FA knows he can’t win Monaco or the WDC, but might possibly pull off a Jimmy Clark, Graham Hill exploit. Everything adds up to big business/media/money success — not to F1 glory. To think that Honda and Liberty had nothing to do with this is silly, it’s a remarkable PR stunt.
      I’m saddened, but not surprised — money talks. I wish FA all possible success.

      1. Indeed he is out of F1….hence sat at home, throwing stuff at his TV :)

      2. SevenFiftySeven
        15th April 2017, 17:36

        I agree with the brilliant move comment. It helps to promote the Indianapolis 500 event for both Indycar and Nascar. It helps Honda (this is the big point here). It helps Fernando the most – elevated stature, future prospects (both in other F1 teams and racing series worldwide), drawing F1 fans into Indy and a much needed big boost for the Honda name. The big loser in all of this is McLaren. Given the public outcry on Honda vis-a-vis the F1 community and from McLaren, this is Honda administering a payback on the backs of McLaren, while also knowing full well that – as it stands right now – Fernando is bigger than McLaren. There is no way McLaren could’ve voted against this move. Honda pays McLaren’s and Fernando’s bills. Like I said before, McLaren is the big loser here – no disrespect intended to McLaren and its fans. If Fernando does well, great, but bad for McLaren. If he is seen doing poorly, still big gains for Honda and Indy; still bad for McLaren. If there is a bad accident, both Honda and Indy are screwed with McLaren looking better – let’s hope Fernando doesn’t get into an accident.

        Another reason why this is a brilliant move is F1 fans like me – who has never bothered to watch Indy 500 live, nor watched any American racing series out of my own volition ever – will be waiting and watching that event this year, because Fernando will be on it.

        Horner is right, however. You don’t risk a guy like Fernando doing another series and potentially getting harmed. And, yes, this is McLaren trying to keep Fernando happy because they don’t hold those precious bargaining chips to not allow this; the car is expendable, and so was Dennis. Horner and Claire have to get the message out to their own drivers, while indirectly supporting their most popular local brand McLaren.

  2. What if Alonso gets injured? I agree with Horner.

    1. Just ask Nelson Piquet Sr. what Indy can do for your legs.

      1. Sidney, that same Piquet Sr admitted a few years ago that he has suffered from permanent physical health problems after being concussed in qualifying for the 1987 San Marino GP, so you could also say the same thing about F1.

      2. Lots of injuries at Indianapolis over the years. Unlike when Piquet had his big accident, the walls now have IndyCar developed SAFER Barrier (soft walls) around them, decreasing the crash energy. Still, bad things can happen racing at a constant 230 mph. Google James Hinchcliffe’s Indy practice crash.

        Alonso will be fine. IndyCar’s are built to be able to withstand incredible impacts because one third of the schedule is on ovals.

        This crossover has to happen more often. Move the date of Monaco so it doesn’t always run on the same day as the 500. The amount of publicity generated is incredible, and a goldmine for F1, IndyCar, Open Wheel.

    2. Alonso has gotten injured in an F1 car TWICE, in the last 2 years… better keep him out of an f1 car too? Alonso’s a big boy. Let the man race.

      Horner is towing the party line here. I’m sure Alonso doesn’t give a damn what redbull has to say, and I’m glad.

    3. What if he got injured in Monaco? What if he died in Monaco? Huh? HUH?
      What if nobody gets injured at Indy 500 and there’s not even a single crash. Could we assume it was thank to Alonso? Basically he can save lives man.

      1. He signed a contract to race at Monaco.. If he got injured, so be it. But indie 500 just exposes his egotistical narcissism. He’s a egotistical maniac. A waster, a quitter. I would sack that 35 million clown in a heartbeat. With Fernando.. Its me, me, me. He made his bed.

        1. Your posts are always vague. It’s almost like your terrified of offending anyone.

          Why don’t you just for once come out and say what you really mean?


          1. Yeah, don’t sugar coat it. I can barely tell that you like the guy.

  3. It’s a bit like leaving your partner just a few months after childbirth to run off with one of the Spice Girls. It just doesn’t seem like the right thing to do.

    1. ……haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaHaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaHaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa! Now that is FUNNY!!! Brilliant!!! #:)))))

    2. No, it’s like like getting a rest from your party crazy, abusive, alcoholic girlfriend for a weekend.

      1. Actually, its more like leaving your boring girlfriend to try a more exciting one ;)

    3. @aqualyn except he’s gonna be racing in a mclaren branded car? Getting massive PR for the mclaren brand?, and possibly putting his foot in the door for a mclaren entry in Indy car?…

      Furthermore some relationships are open ended, and you should never pretend to know what’s going on behind the scenes?…

      Your analogy isn’t even close… but you did mention the spice girls… so it’s not totally pointless…

      1. Whoooooooosh… Did you see that?

    4. hahaha – Imagine if the interviewer said that in reply……

    5. Driving for a team is a contract. Not marriage.

      1. As far as I know marriage is a contract too.

      2. Exactly. FA will run a Honda-powered car, with McLaren sponsorship. He will be the most followed driver by the media. Every single Formula 1 follower will at least watch part of the Indy 500. If he practices and qualifies in a decent position, and does not crash during the race, it will be a huge success.

        1. Precisely!
          What do you think most F1 fans will find more interesting? Watching boring Monaco and hoping for a overtake, or watching FA battling 32 other cars at 230 mph with constant lead changes? Indy 500 viewing will be massive in Europe come May.

        2. Not to mention that it is one of the things that might convince Alonso to stay with McLaren for a longer time if they allow him to do this kind of thing.

    6. That has to be comment of the day. First class @aqualyn.

    7. @aqualyn

      COTS (Comment Of The Season)

      1. #Blessed

    8. Thank you. I needed that laugh after reading Horner’s sanctimonious comments.

      1. Just wait until I seem him and give him a flexi-nose. I know I could have him, he’d be too busy telling the FIA that his nose doesn’t flex more than anyone else’s to fight back.

    9. @aqualyn boy did he actually do that!? I didn’t know!

      1. You’ll see me paddock-side soon, reporting for

    10. Nice one @aqualyn

      Beat me to it.

  4. Hornblowers analogy about running off with another girlfriend is totally inept. No reason Fernando wont be able to win at Indy on his debut from my seat! He can drive all around twisty circuits like he does already, so oval-track racing shouldnt present a driver of his talent with any major problems shoud it? Anyway, we will see on May 28. #:)

    1. “oval-track racing shouldnt present a driver of his talent with any major problems shoud it?”
      It should and it will. Talent only makes you learn faster. But many things you can only learn during an actual race.
      Things that will be new to him:
      – The car, the engine, the tyres, the aero – and setting them up.
      – The track: how to drive it, where and how to overtake on it, what lines to (not) choose for various situations
      – The team: communication with mechanics (setting the car)
      – Race: tyre managament, fuel consumption management, slipstreaming strategies (driving in a pack, overtaking), actual race strategy, race pace, hazardous things (running on rubber marbles, avoiding/forseeing crashes, pit-lane battles)

      1. Hulk won Le Man on first attemp, similar, if not so extreme situation

        1. @harrisf1 yeah but that’s still road racing. It’s the same theory applied differently, even Hulk said that. Oval racing is just something completely different from every single aspect.

          It’s an immense challenge in itself, let alone racing other people that have been doing oval racing for so long.

    2. Oval racing at Indianapolis is incredibly difficult. You only have to watch their qualifying sessions for that. Sliding the car through the turns at 220+ MPH takes a lot of skill, especially when you consider that a small mistake leads to the car snapping and a heavy crash. The race is difficult because the drivers constantly have to adapt to the situation in traffic while managing tires over a stint. How close a driver is to the car in front and the different lines the cars take through the corner will determine what line you have to take and how much to lift. Doing that for 500 miles while going at speeds that F1 almost never reaches is incredibly difficult. Indianapolis is not any old oval, either. It is narrow, slick, and relatively flat.

    3. 31 cars in close proximity, each trimmed in low downforce configuration for max speeds which are north of 220mph, for 500 miles, in a new car with dramatically different driving characteristics, and radically different pit stops, against experienced drivers who are very, very good themselves. Sure, what could be easier? That must by why so many ex-F1 drivers succeed in Indy.
      I know Alonso is good, but he aint that good. The deck is definitely stacked against him winning on his first shot.

      1. The deck was stacked against Rossi last year too.

        As for ex-F1 drivers in Indy, lets take a look at F1 champions (I’m counting those that entered the race before becoming champions too).

        -Giuseppe Farina: He apparently made 2 attemps in 1956 and 1957 (age 49 and 50). He didn’t qualify for either.
        -Juan Manuel Fangio: He attempted to participate in 1958, didn’t qualify.
        -Alberto Ascari: He took part in the 1952 event with a Ferrari car. He qualified 31st of 33, and retired in lap 40 (he spun during the race but I don’t know if that was the cause of his retirement)
        -Jack Brabham: Took part in the 1961, 1964, 1969 and 1970 events. In 1961 he qualified 13th and finished 9th (out of 10 cars in the lead lap). In ’64, ’69 and ’70, he retired from mechanical issues.
        -Graham Hill: Took part in 1966, 1967 and 1968. He won in 1966, retired from the ’67 and ’68 races (mechanical issues and a crash in lap 110). He also entered the 1969 event, but Chapman withdrew his car and Rindt’s (and Andretti’s, but he drove a spare and won the race) after Andretti crashed during practice due to a car failure.
        -Jim Clark: He entered the race from 1963 to 1967. He qualified 5th, 1st, 2nd, 2nd, 16th; and finished 2nd, 24th (retired), 1st, 2nd, 31st (retired). He led 44% of the laps he completed.
        -Denny Hulme: 4 starts (67-71). He finished 4th (3 laps down; A.J. Foyt, the winner, was the only driver in the lead lap), 4th, 18th (mechanical), 17th (mechanical).
        -Jackie Stewart: 2 starts (1966 and 1967). In 1966, with 8 laps to go, he was leading by more than 1 lap when his car failed (Graham Hill and Jim Clark finished 1st and 2nd). In 1967, with 32 laps to go, his engine failed while he was 3rd.
        -Jochen Rindt: 2 starts (1967 and 1968). He finished 24th and 32nd (both due to mechanical failures).
        -Emerson Fittipaldi: 12 attempts (between 1984 and 1995). He first won it in 1989, and had another win in 1993. He failed to qualify in 1995.
        -Mario Andretti: 29 starts (between 1965 and 1994, didn’t enter in 1979). He won in 1969. Not very representative, when he won it he had done a total of 2 F1 GPs. He had a lot more of oval experience than most drivers in this list.
        -Nelson Piquet: 2 attempts (1992, 1993). In 1992 he crashed during practice trying to get into the pits, resulting in injuries that took him out of the race. Apparently he had shown some speed. In 1993, he qualified 13th and only completed 38 laps before his engine blew out.
        -Nigel Mansell: 2 attempts (1993, 1994). Both in full-time CART seasons. He finished 3rd in 1993, and was taken out during a safety car in 1994.
        -Jacques Villeneuve: 3 attempts (1994, 1995, 2014). He was 2nd in 1994, won in 1995 and was 14th in 2014. Like Andretti, he had more oval experience than most F1 drivers (and won Indy 500 before he joined the F1 championship).

        So, the tally. out of 14 F1 champions that made an attempt to win the Indy500, 6 won it. 2 of them did it before becoming F1 drivers. The only one to do so in his rookie attempt was Graham Hill.

        Furthermore, out of 100 Indy 500 races, only 9 were won by a rookie.

        Is it going to be hard? Yes, it will. It’s very unlikely that Alonso will win it. It’s something he’s never tried, with cars he’s never driven before, against a highly competitive field. And that’s exactly why this should be celebrated. It’s an F1 driver going out of his zone of comfort, to drive one of the biggest races in the world. If he wins, it will be a big story. If he doesn’t, it will give him a different experience, one he might enjoy enough to repeat (and if he’s actually aiming for the Triple crown, he definitely will). It’s a challenge, and that’s fine.

        For the teams, drivers racing other disciplines is a risk (think about what happened to Kubica), so it’s understandable most team principals would be against the idea. At the same time, this way of thinking has kept great drivers from trying other disciplines they might enjoy.

        1. @casjo – Excellent post! Thank you for taking the time to put it together.

          1. @bullmello and @casjo Agreed. Well summed up.

        2. wish I had a 1 min version of that text

        3. Great post! Thanks for that.

      2. There are 33 cars in the 500.


      I remember reading this quite excellent article a while ago by Emerson Fittipaldi about oval racing and the challenges it presents. Alonso is one of the greatest, of that there is no doubt. But the cards are stacked against him here. But hey, good luck to him.

      1. I enjoyed that link. I’m always surprised by apparent motorsport fans not ‘getting’ oval racing. IMHO it is one of the purest forms of racing: flat out as near as dammit and overtaking galore, what’s not to love?

    5. Reaching any speed over about 185mph will be a refreshing change for Alonso…

      There’s plenty of practice days available before the 500. Wouldn’t he have to miss Barcelona as well, if he wants to prepare as well as possible? What are the chances of that?!

  5. He has a point. Mclaren is eating out of Alonson’s hands. It is such a shame to see such a legendary team end up like this.

    1. Exactly.

  6. Didn’t Horner leave his girlfriend for Geri Haliwell?

    1. Nothing Oval about Geri is there?

    2. Yeah but he never came back, so that’s ok then

      1. + it was his wife, not girlfriend

  7. OmarRoncal - Go Seb!!! (@)
    14th April 2017, 19:47

    I know he is entitled to have his opinion, but to do it in this conflictive way is a pity… for Horner, not for Alonso.

  8. Hmmm. Time will tell. If the car snaps on him and he hits the wall, putting him out for a while I think we might have a different opinion of this move. Well, let’s see. It’s certainly great from a fan perspective!

    1. Not really. Even if he bins it on the first lap at least he had the stuffing to give it a go.

  9. Honda need to get out of this sport, no question needed. Fernando has fought for them with a horrid engine for 2 years and 2 races now. Horner,just concentrate on making Max happy so he doesn’t bolt next year. It’s a good story all around and Horner doesn’t need to pee on it.

  10. Horner is barking mad to even comment on it.. I would think he has his hands full with his two drivers not to mention Vettlel,Botas,Kiki,and Lewis.

    1. Damn spellcheck…Kimi

      1. Was quite funny though 😝

    2. Well considering everyone and their mothers have been asked their thoughts on it it shouldn’t be a surprise when he comments on it.

      1. And no surprise that he should give so mean-spirited a reply, either.

  11. It really is a big risk. I trust Alonso’s driving. But we have seen accidents on those ovals, and they usually start out as some benign movement and suddenly, the cars are crashing in every direction.
    Alonso lacks sufficient experience racing ovals and miss out on those cues leading up to a big crash.
    But I can understand his need, and we all pray for the safety of the drivers.

  12. Kudos to McLaren and Alonso. Drivers back in the day used to have multiple commitments and I’d be glad to see more of this sort of thing.

  13. Well aren’t you a barrel of fun, Horner?

  14. The nuttiest race you’ve ever seen, Christian? If you haven’t seen the Isle of Man TT races then you don’t know what a nutty race is.

    1. Isle of Man is definitely nutty, doing 230 mph for 3 hours – nutty and very exciting.

  15. The best parts of all this have absolutely nothing to do with Alonso and McLaren.

    Horner with the leaving your girlfriend analogy, ouch. Says more about himself than is wise maybe…

    And the “barking mad“. Got to love that expression. Thanks for that Mr. Horner.

    Oh yeah, McLaren and Alonso. I think it’s barking brilliant!

  16. I think Horner was simply sending a message to his drivers, don’t even think about asking to race at Le Mans.

  17. Balderdash. What’s he talking about – turning up with no testing… Turn 1 is a proper corner etc. Who said Alonso was going to turn up with no testing?! I’m sure he’ll get running on a simulator, and then he’s got the whole Month of May programme to run through. Horner clearly knows NOTHING about Andretti and Honda’s plans for Alonso, so why open your mouth and talk balderdash about it?! Someone tape his mouth up please, and tell Horner the tape will only come off once he’s given some considered thought to what he’s about to say. Silly man. Silly successful man but you know what I mean!

  18. Let Alonso return from Indy as a looser – maybe crashed in first curve… what a fool…you can’t learn indy driving in a weekend – he sure will loose points in the F1 table – 2xlooser…

    1. What points?

  19. And the Mclaren PR stunt continues working.
    Shame a team that big needs to that kind of thing.

  20. This is good advertising for the Indianapolis 500. I hadn’t even thought about watching it, but if I have time I might.

  21. Dario Franchitti refutes Horner, in advance, with a logical, realistic look at the Alonso Indy ride.

    The problems Alonso will face at Indy

  22. Does horner not know that alonso will basically get a whole month of testing before the indy 500

  23. Takeitlightly
    15th April 2017, 1:32

    Alonso is a big boy and know what he is doing, it might be an R&R for Alonso and there is nothing wrong with that… It is a single seater car similar to F1 if not the same so in terms of danger it will be as dangerous as you are racing in Monaco. He is not racing MotoGP or Isle of Man so what is the problem Horner? He is not even racing in F1 for podiums or wins currently. Maybe Horner is barking mad cause his team which is supposed to be the AERO king in the new AERO Generation 2017 F1 car is not up to the task and even RIC admits it.

  24. Blah, blah, blah.
    There is no doubt some jealously and anger in the paddock, not only due to Alonso going to Indy and the massive amount of attention it is garnering, but also the perception that ALO is betraying F1 for that nutty oval race.

    It will be an exciting race as usual, oval or not, and the fact Alonso will be part of it will no doubt increase F1’s popularity in America due to his reputation as one of the all time greats.

    As the old saying goes, if one doesn’t have something good to say, don’t say it or you may be perceived as a jerk. Horner (and Marko) are perfect examples.

  25. I bet drivers like to do different categories (not all probably but most)

    It’s good for F1 to cross mix audiences and spread their popularity. Vice versa for the other categories (Indy in this case but also maybe NASCAR, WEC, FE and Super Formula)

    It’s good for the team sponsors getting more exposure as well (something that should especially be appealing to RedBull eventhough it’s straight poison and should be banned alltogether imho)

    The only one it might not be good for is the team if a driver get’s injured i.e. the only thing it’s not good for is money reasons. That’s short sided imho. It’s 2017 boys. Get with the program.

  26. I don’t understand why other teams are so angry.

      1. +1

        You’d think if there was any team was crazy (“extreme”) enough to come up with an idea like this, it would be Red Bull. But no, clearly McLaren and Zak Brown beat them to it!

        But then again, Horner’s never missed an opportunity to pick on Fernando (playful or not). Probably stems from when Fernando (regrettably) didn’t take RB seriously enough, to consider them as his next team after exiting McLaren at the end of 2007.

  27. Horner, shut your cake hole.

  28. Running IndyCar team is uncomparably easier than running F1 team. Treat this as McLaren’s comeback to Indy racing. “McLaren open to “full-works” IndyCar programme in future”

    This is the best way to do it, best way to attract sponsors States-side etc.

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