Fernando Alonso, McLaren, IndyCar, Indianapolis, 2019

McLaren plans Indy 500 return after failing to qualify for 2019 race

2019 Monaco Grand Prix

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McLaren intends to return for another attempt at the Indianapolis 500 despite failing to qualify for this weekend’s Indianapolis 500.

McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown said he is still reviewing the errors which led to Fernando Alonso being eliminated from the race in the final lap of qualifying last Sunday.

However he intends to take the team back to Indianapolis because “all the reason why we think McLaren should be at Indy remain.”

“When you’re in racing you’re going to have highs and lows,” said Brown in Monaco today. “That was obviously a very significant blow. The lowest point in my 25 years of motor racing.

“But I think you have to dust yourself off, learn about your mistakes and come back fighting. That’s what we intend to do.”

The team parted company with McLaren Indy director Robert Fernley less than 24 hours after Alonso’s ejection from the race. However Brown said he took responsibility for the team’s failure.

“I’m ultimately responsible for the lack of success at Indianapolis. There are things I would do differently next time.

“I wish I would have brought Gil [de Ferran, McLaren sporting director] in sooner. But one of the promises we made to ourselves was we would not compromise our Formula 1 programme at all. And I think we’re moving forward in Formula 1 and I couldn’t redirect Gil until Andreas [Seidl, team principal] came and that’s when he went to Indy and at that point I think we were already too far behind the eight ball.”

Brown admitted there were “warning signs very early on” which he should have reacted too, “like not being prepared for the first test” at Texas Motor Speedway. “But I too couldn’t be distracted from Formula 1. So there’s a lot of things I would do differently next time around.”

While several stories have emerged about what went wrong with McLaren’s Indy 500 effort, Brown says he wants to get the full picture before deciding on his next steps.

“I’ve learned a lot. I’m not done yet with my post-mortem. I know what I know, but I also know I don’t know a lot of the finer details.

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“I want to review everything, talk to everybody on the team which I started doing yesterday, but right now I’m focused on Monaco so I’ve got some time to understand. But ultimately it was a people issue starting with myself of not having all the bases covered. We were just unprepared.”

Asked by RaceFans whether McLaren’s shareholders would support them returning to Indianapolis after last weekend’s humiliation, Brown said he expects “they would”.

“I don’t want to speak for them but the commentary I’ve had back from them is we’re racers and let’s get it next time. I’ve not made the formal request because I’ve also not formalised in my own mind when we want to go back.

“We’ve got to digest it and make sure we can set around the table with all the right people and go ‘do we feel prepared and we’ve learned by our mistakes and we have those covered’. If that becomes a ‘yes’ I am confident we will go back to Indy.”

“There’s very good reasons why McLaren should be in Indianapolis,” he added. “[It’s a] big market, our partners want to be there, our motor business is strong there, et cetera. So none of those change.

“Fortunately now I’ve got Andreas Seidl and James Key and the Formula 1 team leadership in place. I think for sure that will help because if Gil or someone like Gil ran the programme from day one I think we’d have a different result. Would it be easier not to do something? I don’t think racers take the easy route often.”

Brown pointed to the example of how the team continued after founder Bruce McLaren died in 1970.

“It’s easy to have an initial reaction of quitting if you’re not successful at something,” he said. “I don’t think that’s a conviction of McLaren, dating back to Bruce McLaren.

“I’ve heard the stories, obviously I wasn’t there when Bruce had his accident and I think it was three days later the team was racing. I think that’s the tenacity of this racing team.”

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36 comments on “McLaren plans Indy 500 return after failing to qualify for 2019 race”

  1. Good points made by Zak. I think they should really consider running more than one race if they’re entering as a team, it needs time for “operational” stuff to bed in with a new team.

    Good points, but I’m still sore about sacking Bob. Don’t know why, I just liked the guy.

    1. I agree, I think it would be a good step if they can train the teamwork in at least one or two races ahead of the Indy500

  2. After the debacle, I certainly hope they do their homework for next year and make full time entry with a good team.

  3. selling McLaren to the fascist/salafist state of Bahrain was the lowest point

  4. I just don’t see Mclaren tasting any success in Indy by just entering one race a year. They need to be a full time Indy outfit to stand a chance. If Alonso wants to win the triple crown, he should be looking at driving for an established Indy outfit instead of Mclaren, who make a half baked attempt at things.

    1. georgeboole (@)
      23rd May 2019, 13:10

      @todfod that’s very true. McLaren at Indy is like Manor in F1. No experience whatsoever. It would take them years to be up to the level of other established teams. If they could!

    2. Well said, Todfod! I agree.

    3. Agree.
      By the way, Honda’s teams are probably out of reach for him; what could he possibly go?
      I don’t think Roger Penske is crazy enough to hire him, I mean..every time Alonso is around, if he wins it’s his own merit, if he loses it’s team’s fault.

      1. *where could he possibly go.
        (Reformulating sentences could be tricky..)

        1. Pat Ruadh (@fullcoursecaution)
          24th May 2019, 12:25

          Penske – too political – OUT
          Chip Ganassi – Honda – OUT
          Andretti – Honda – OUT
          Rahal Letterman Lanigan – Honda – OUT
          Shmidt Peterson – Honda – OUT
          Dale Coyne – Honda – OUT
          Harding Steinbrenner – Honda – OUT
          AJ Foyt
          Ed Carperter

          1. Pat Ruadh (@fullcoursecaution)
            24th May 2019, 12:32

            Or McLaren buy Carlin out and hire some experienced staff…
            Or Andretti switch to Chevy power as they considered doing a few years ago

      2. if he wins it’s his own merit

        So wrong; of all drivers, it is Alonso who uses always ‘we’ most, and never ‘I’.
        You might not believe the guy, probably driven by not liking him, but that statement is incorrect.

        1. It’s not.
          Luca di Montezemolo spoke out pretty much on this topic in his interview with F1.
          The guy is a prima donna, difficult to handle, for sure an excellent driver, but not by far the best nor the quickest in the world.
          His great talent doesn’t justify all the troubles he brings.

          1. Was di Montezemolo speaking about himself or Alonso?

          2. @liko41 LOL… And you believe Montezemolo?

            We’ll never know the ins and outs. But Montezemolo isn’t a guy that admits mistakes either, so whatever he says is also tainted with his own ego.

          3. @fer-no65
            Absolutely. What he said is basically confirmed by the last 13 years of racing, lol.
            I wonder how long you all could keep finding excuses elsewhere..
            The whole universe is apparently plotting around the best driver ever existed, rotfl.

        2. @coldfly

          Mr Fantomius does not care about facts. He is here just to troll. I’m surprised he hasn’t yet called you an “alonsonista”.

          1. It’s actually YOU who don’t care about facts.
            I mean, 13 years have past and you alonsistas (happy now?) keep finding excuses, lol.

      3. @liko41

        “Brown confirmed that media reports earlier this week outlining the errors the team made – which included difficulties sourcing a steering wheel for a test at Texas, wrong tyre sensors, incorrect gear ratios, confusion over metric/imperials measurements for a set-up, and delays caused by repainting its spare car – were broadly correct.”

        Yep, definitely Alonso’s fault….

        1. Yep. He crashed the car on the wall, remember?
          Stop acting like spoiled f@nboys, for god’s sake. Grow up.

    4. I don’t think it is that simple. There are many more ways to enter the indy than there are ways to do the monaco gp for example. You can run the practice sessions in backmarker team and then buy a seat after you don’t qualify (option alonso did not want). You can run your own team just in indy as a pure mclaren effort. Or you can rent or work with an established team. Or some other variation. You also need to remember that all the honda teams are out of question because apparently honda is bitter (with mclaren or alonso?) and as such any partnership with honda powered teams is out of question.

      Running more races would obviously help but you’d want to do more oval races. The indy500 oval is the first oval race of the season so your only useful race would be to run an oval race on the previous season if you want that kind of practice. I don’t think running more individual races is going to work unless indy changes its schedule. Mclaren should run a full season or just focus on indy in my opinion. Full season is a problem for alonso as he can’t do some of the indy races because of his other commitments. Only two ovals alonso could do with his wec schedule are iowa and pocono oval races. Texas race is too close to lemans and others are on the same date but different times.

      Even with the honda engine out of alonso’s car it still continues to drag him down in other series.

      1. Maybe it isnt the engine?

  5. Either do the Indy each year, but partnered with a team similarly to in 2017, while still running with McLaren backing him. Or, enter the series full time, and maybe in a few years a corporation as big as McLaren could become competitive. Doing what they did this year was never going to work, especially with the comedy of errors that has been outlined that they made.

  6. However Brown said he took responsibility for the team’s failure.

    Very valiant by Brown; I hope he soon finds a new role ;)

    1. @coldfly

      Lol. He took the responsibility of failure but fired someone else! An all new approach to leadership I guess.

  7. I’m glad the recent failure for the 500 has not dampened their enthusiasm for the race or series. Because I was certain that it would and McLaren would not try again. But like others said, they need to participate in more races in the series besides the 500.

  8. McLaren’s non-Qualification at Indycar was a success for American teams: they worked hard, were prepared, didn’t treat being in the race as a walkover, and got through Qualification.
    As others have said, McLaren need to turn up at next year’s Indycar with races under their belt. Why not compete in at least the rest of this season? Obviously they won’t win the series, it’s too late for that, but it will give them the experience they need. They don’t need to use Fernando at every race, they could use another driver for some of their races because it’s the experience of racing in that environment that they are interested in.

    1. I’d love to see Alonso and the team run a handful of races for the balance of the season to get more experience. It would be fantastic to see him at Road America… They need to run full time next year to have any chance at the 500. I doubt Alonso will re-sign with them as his contract is up, and will look to land with a veteran IndyCar team.

  9. Zak and Fred are rich enough to enter their own team next year. Can I suggest they call it *Team Ego*.

  10. @liko41

    “Brown confirmed that media reports earlier this week outlining the errors the team made – which included difficulties sourcing a steering wheel for a test at Texas, wrong tyre sensors, incorrect gear ratios, confusion over metric/imperials measurements for a set-up, and delays caused by repainting its spare car – were broadly correct.”

    Yep, definitely Alonso’s fault….

  11. What really worries me is that he didn’t deny any of the stories we heard. I thought some of them were just cuckoo, but reading that he didn’t deny them, is even more worrying.

    It also says a lot that he takes the opportunity to remember us all that his main idea was to prevent Indy from being a distraction to the F1 programme, which just shows McLaren as a company cannot focus into anything else right now. It’s too early for Zak to try these stuff… he needs to sort out the F1 team. You’ve got to work before you enjoy your hobbies.

  12. Awesome pr for F1. The “top” driver and one of the top teams cant even qualify in Indie.

    1. Alonso is just a has been.

    2. It does show that trying to run a race where you average nearly 230 mph for 500 miles is quite a task!

  13. McLaren, to summarise a shambles. After several years telling the woes with Honda, a switch of power plant. Where are they nowhere. Meanwhile RedBull running ‘that’Honda have them for breakfast every other weekend.
    Need to concentrate on one thing, not scratch the surface of lots of different racing formats.

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