McLaren puts Fernley in charge of IndyCar programme

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McLaren has appointed former Force India deputy team principal Robert Fernley to run its IndyCar programme.

The team announced last week it will run Fernando Alonso in next year’s Indianapolis 500.

“Bob is a fantastic operator and someone I respect greatly,” said McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown. “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.”

Fernley will report to Brown as the president of McLaren IndyCar. As well as forming the technical team which will handle Alonso’s Indy 500 bid, Fernley will “evaluate the feasibility of a longer-term McLaren involvement in IndyCar”, the team said in a statement.

Fernley, who has previous experience in American single-seeater racing, said “heading back to The Brickyard will be a very special experience for me.”

“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.”

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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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  • 27 comments on “McLaren puts Fernley in charge of IndyCar programme”

    1. I wish he still were at RPFI.

      1. Agreed, but I’m happy he’s landed on his feet. Let’s hope McLaren in IndyCar aren’t a basketcase like F1.

      2. Maybe a shame for F1 / McLaren that they weren’t able to get him to run the F1 team :-)

        1. @bascb – maybe given his paddock knowledge of the McLaren team, he refused ;-)

          1. Very likely yeah. Far to big to be able to make the team operate the way he likes it, far too many voices from all over the place (at least the driver won’t be as strong a voice next year) @phylyp.

        2. @bascb Absolutely. What he did at Force India was amazing and clearly warrants an F1 TP role. Passing him up must really be considered another McLaren cockup.

    2. I can’t believe McLaren are still letting Alonso bend them over.

      1. it’s their favourite sport

    3. I don’t think McLaren would hire a man like Bob just for single race, even if it is the 500. It is very likely that they’re considering a full-time Indy programme by 2020, if not by next year.

      1. Fernley will “evaluate the feasibility of a longer-term McLaren involvement in IndyCar”, the team said in a statement.

      2. McLaren going full time in IndyCar for 2020. Look for Alonso to do more races than just the 500 in 2019.

    4. He should be in charge of their F1 programme

      1. If successful at the brickyard he will be invited to the quicksand.

    5. Good to see Bob back in command… BUT… I’m still asking why he left FI… and why no journalist even seems to be asking the question…!
      It seems to be very much on a ‘need-to-know’ basis… while those who know seem to have been sworn to secrecy…
      Weird

      1. I wouldn’t wanna go from running a badass f1 team like force India, to playing babysitter for lance stroll either… that’s always been my guess.

        1. Thanks for the comment:
          I think this is quite possible and, if so, I can understand why Bob would keep quiet… but why does no journalist even bother to mention it…

    6. Yes, “Need to know”, those who know, have been told what they “need” to do.
      For BF to be put in charge of a McLaren Indy-500 Program with 5 months to get things in place, is really encouraging.
      Not just for the one 2019 race, but the indication of more to come. For all of those that were concerned that an Indy Car program would hamper the F1 effort, this should clear that up as it sounds like a separate parallel organization and likely would be based in the US.
      Should be great. Heck, of course it will be GREAT.
      Fernando just needs to get used to the taste of Bud rather than Chandon.

      1. Don’t you mean milk, not Bud?

        1. Only one driver gets to drink milk (so long as his name isn’t Emerson) and I am sure there will be lots of time to sample a few Buds in the month long buildup to the race.
          Yer right though, I expect that Alonso would like to sample the white stuff too. Already looking forward to May.

    7. I think McLaren’s expectations are a bit high. I don’t see any reason why all the other teams won’t consider them as competitors, meaning they will get little if any assistance from them. Indycar is a spec series, so there’s a limit to how much technology McLaren can throw at their car.
      The current top engine in Indycar is made by Honda, which is a name not mentioned at McLaren, so McLaren will have to run with Chevrolet.

    8. Is he on gardening leave? Is this something for him to do while on gardening leave?

      1. Interesting idea… but why is it left to a few of ‘us’ to ask…? What are the ‘professionals’ doing…?

    9. @megatron – that’s an interesting line of thought.

    10. No offense to indianapolis 500 or that catagory of racing but mclaren is going backward. Who chooses tto go from playing in the premier league to playing in the lower division…should we be expecting an f1 exit in the future?!

      1. If a target market for selling McLaren cars is the USA than a McLaren liveried car in their premier single seater category is not a bad marketing ploy.

        Customers in the USA don’t worry to much about F1 and it’s perceived power ranking above IndyCars.

        This IndyCars is but first division versus F1 being the superior premier league competition, is purely a Eurocentric concept.

        Yanks frankly don’t give a damn. McLaren knows this and to widen their USA market will enter IndyCars, irrespective of it’s Eurocentric perceived league rankings given by European based people with little or no market knowledge of the USA.

        The fact they are going it alone and with only limited input from Andretti Racing (who with 5 cars is going to be spread pretty thin on engineering support) means they are long term entrants no doubt running a full season in 2020.

        Who knows in 2021 it may become for McLaren a not too wise marketing investment to remain in F1.

        F1 down to 18 cars, 16 if Williams fold and 12 if Red Bull pull out if the Honda engines don’t keep them in the top six.

        F1 has bigger problems than worrying about IndyCars. F1 may collapse and the first division may prospers due to the blinkered idioms such as F1 is premier league.

    11. Good points.. But sadly no…no offense but german and british engineering with italian is still the ideal. Everything else is but a poor shadow.

      1. Poor shadow of what? if anything from a racing stand point IndyCars is a far better series than F1.

        IndyCars use German made wheels, Italian Dallara chassis’s, English Chevrolet engine (Ilmor), Japanese Honda engine (admittedly made in the USA by a stand alone Honda owned company), British Cosworth Steering wheels and components , British McLaren Engine Control Unit, British Xtrac gearboxes.

        So I don’t quite understand what your point is.

        Sure IndyCars are slower but the grids are fuller, more teams and drivers have a chance of a win, promotions target their primary market, tight regulations ensure parity.

        With the increase in engine size the horsepower rating in 2020 is likely to be up to 950hp (currently 750hp). With the simpler V6 twin turbo concept a third engine supplier is a strong possibility for 2020 (British Cosworth if an OEM can be found to badge and pay for the engine).

        Oh, and IndyCars are totally committed to not introducing any type of KERS to complicate the racing series.

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