Fernando Alonso, McLaren, IndyCar, Indianapolis, 2019

McLaren confirms full-time IndyCar entry with Schmidt Peterson

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McLaren has confirmed it will enter next year’s IndyCar championship in partnership with the Schmidt Peterson team.

Schmidt Peterson’s two full-time cars, which this year are being driven by Marcus Ericsson and James Hinchcliffe, will be rebranded as Arrow McLaren Racing SP entries.

The partnership between the two teams will see Schmidt Peterson co-founders Sam Schmidt and Ric Peterson continue to run the operation, while McLaren sporting director Gil de Ferran will run a dedicated IndyCar group within McLaren Racing.

McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown said the team’s return to the championship it last competed in full-time in 1978 will provide “not only a commercial platform to continue to grow our brand in North America, but competition with some of the best teams in international motorsport.”

“This team provides McLaren with the right synergy as a strategic partner for our return to the sport,” he added. “We believe together we can help each other achieve our mutual ambitions. Sam Schmidt and Ric Peterson have built a solid foundation and we look forward to working together to take the team to the next level.”

James Hinchcliffe, Schmidt Peterson, IndyCar testing, Laguna Seca, 2019
McLaren will join forces with Schmidt in IndyCar
McLaren’s IndyCar entry will use Chevrolet engines, as it did for its unsuccessful return to the Indianapolis 500 this year, where its sole driver Fernando Alonso failed to qualify.

Schmidt said he is “extremely proud of the team that Ric and I have built and that a legendary brand like McLaren Racing has decided to partner with us to form Arrow McLaren Racing SP to continue our march to the top of IndyCar.

“Arrow is a tremendous partner which has been integral to our growth as a team since 2015 and to the creation of this new partnership. The combined technical resources and commercial opportunities both McLaren and Arrow bring to the table provide a winning combination.”

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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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  • 45 comments on “McLaren confirms full-time IndyCar entry with Schmidt Peterson”

    1. Well, good luck to them!
      If they start season well, they may even talk Alonso into joining them (only) for Indy 500…

      Though who knows…

    2. Well I never thought Marcus Ericsson would ever drive for McLaren.

      1. At least he’s getting a chance now, though it isn’t sure yet.

      2. Fairly confident he doesn’t have a ride at the new McLaren IndyCar team. I hope he lands a ride elsewhere in the series.

    3. The team currently use Honda engines, not Chevrolet.

      1. They’re switching to Chevrolet next year.

    4. Presumably this means one of Hinch or Ericsson is going to lose their seat to Alonso?

      1. Regarding Hinch,
        “The Canadian 32-year-old, who is in his fifth season with Schmidt and Peterson and who has scored the last three wins for the outfit, has inextricable ties with Honda Canada, thereby making him incompatible with a Chevrolet-powered team.”
        Quote from another website.

      2. Apparently Alonso may run in a 3rd car, either for the full season or for just the 500. I think it’d make sense to do the full season, but yeah. Considering SPM had the funds to run 2 cars this year, with the McLaren money they shouldn’t struggle to run 3.

      3. ALO will only run the 500. He would have to move to the US if he wants to do the whole season and he won’t do that.
        If by some odd chance he got a ride with Penske for the 500 he would no doubt take it but pretty much guaranteed he will race the 500 in a McLaren as a third car if he decides to run.

    5. let me try to understand this

      McLaren establishes a partnership with a team that uses Honda engines. Because of their history, said team needs to move to Chevy engines

      Driver that is currently at the wheel is the face of Honda in north america, probably will have to move away from the team

      Said driver is a key reference point and would bring a lot of desperately needed experience to the new partnership

      they have Ericsson for now

      Is that it? Am I missing something right?

      1. Look at the positive side @johnmilk.
        If this is what it needs to move Zak & Gil away from F1 and let Seidl run the show, then it’s worth it.

        1. harsh but fair

        2. Hoss Cartwright
          10th August 2019, 2:14

          @ColdFly Seems like Zak and Gil are moving out of the picture. I only see Seidl being quoted in McLaren F1 stores these days. What an improvement in the team since he’s come on, and what a breath of fresh air!

        3. Why? McLaren are on their way up currently in f1. Please explain your thought process in your comment.

          1. There isn’t any thought process in his comment. He is anti Zak.
            Brown is responsible for bringing in Seidl and James Key. Brown promised them leeway – including a wind tunnel which Leidl requested.

            Zak was originally brought in for marketing and was “promoted” to CEO of racing operations to try and fix the mess Dennis left. He is co- owner of highly successful United Autosports so he knows what he’s doing. He will get them competitive but it takes time. They are off to a nice start.

      2. Driver that is currently at the wheel is the face of Honda in north america, probably will have to move away from the team

        https://twitter.com/Hinchtown/status/1159854095399890945
        Not a definitive answer, but he seems to think he’ll be staying with SPM

        1. @hugh11 was reading exactly that and was about to answer to myself exactly with that tweet

          thanks!

    6. The McLaren of today has about as much in common with that of 1979 as “IndyCar” has with USAC in which a McLaren team last competed. The only parallel is, I guess, a mutual sponsor, Arrow, perhaps fulfilling the role Marlboro played with the original McLaren & Ron’s Project 4 “merger”.

      I guess I should be happy for Ric and Sam, but I feel as though a little part inside me died with this news. Here comes F1 level b/s to IndyCar. It’ll probably be ok if McLaren don’t interfere too much. I wonder how the US public will take to Team Bahrain/Saudi (or “Team Genocide” as I like to call them)? I guess Hinch could fill the funding gap for Rahal’s 3rd car?

    7. Put Alonso in that car for whole season. It will be far more useful than just single Indy 500 entry.

      1. It would be useful for exposing how much he’s lost and how uncompetitive he actually is within a team that doesn’t coddle him.

        He was good, once. Long ago.

        1. Humorous. His driving was the reason Toyota won LeMans. Sure competition was scoring lacking but he turned qualify speed laps over and over in the dead of night bring his team from behind. Tom Kristensen, who holds the all time Lemans wins at 9, praised Alonso’s performances saying he didn’ T put a foot wrong. Enough said about that.

          The Rolex 24 was even more impressive – probably his greatest drive or certainly one of them. In a Cadillac no less, again he brought his car from behind to pass the Honda’s (Acura’s) with drivers far more experienced than he. In the night and especially the last hours of the race during a a torrential downpour, again he was faultless. The same holds true for the Indy 500.

          Though he is not a great character, to deny he is one of the all time greats is a sign of ignorance or spite. He loves racing and when not involved in racing is driving carts at the track he owns.

          In a way it’s a good thing he left F1 as Lemans is far more grueling than F1 with drivers driving for hours on end in the night. I am a fan of Alonso’s driving if not his personality.

    8. What’s the next announcement? “Alonso announced as McLaren SPM lead driver for 2020 IndyCar season?”

      1. @pt you mixed the letter, Alonso will drive for McLaren SMP at LeMans in an attempt from McLaren to beat Toyota’s.

        1. Nice touch of humour!

      2. They already said they will run a 3rd full time car if Alonso wants to run the full season

    9. I have to say I never liked McLaren, and as long as I’ve been watching F1 I’d say they were the team I least liked to see. I found them stuffy, arrogant and rude. Like the fun police of F1. Also between the cheating scandal and what I felt their poor treatment of Honda, (sure the engine sucked but still) and Brown’s sickly corporate style I never, ever saw myself liking them. Especially after losing Alonso I thought they were toast.

      But I rather like the orange car. Norris is amusing, fun to watch and actually good. Sainz, who was decent enough at Toro Rosso but sucked at Renault looks like a different driver and not only is fun, but also very good. The team is outperforming their works partner, they are keeping to themselves and moving forwards and actually seem to be having fun! Easily the strongest car, team and pairing in the midfield now.

      And now joining IndyCar? I love the idea of seeing F1 teams in different categories! Good on them for giving it a go. I got to say I’m coming around to them. I guess I might be a tiny bit of a McLaren fan now.

      1. @rocketpanda same feeling for me! I’d also add two other positives: james key and andreas seidl. Together with their pilots they seem to drag a lot of good things lately, let’s hope it continues. And switching the engine was the best and most enlightening gift they could hope for themselves.

        1. +1 👍
          Never liked them / Ron Dennis. Right direction now. Hope it works.

    10. Finally! Herta and Alonso would be a very interesting driver line up.

      Another site said Hinch and Ericsson would be leaving. Hinch is tied to Honda and receives sponsorship money from Honda Canada so I think he’s out. Ericsson hasn’t done that well and don’t know where he’d land if he’s gone too.

    11. Currently there is no chance for McLaren to win races in F1, so this is the right time to evaluate themselves elsewhere. Good luck, McLaren!

    12. I’m really interested in seeing how well the F1 tech will transfer to the Indycar team. I know it’s a spec chassis but you have freedom to work in the dampers and shocks. So if a super high tech F1 team puts their mind to it they could prob build some of the best parts in all of indycar. They also have huge R&D teams. They don’t have to worry about the budget bc this will be a drop in the hat for a team like them. There’s also a ton of aero tweaking they can do that other indycar teams may not have the tools to do

      1. @racerdude7730, that’s what McLaren thought in this years Indy 500 entry, arrogantly as it were to be. In the end they tried to buy Penske/Andretti parts for the last day but as it turned out too late.
        The F1-McLaren operation doesn’t really have nothing to do with the IndyCar operation, McLaren bought out SPM and the technology exchange possibilities between the disciplines is close to zero. The other run track specific prototypes with hybrid PU technology that’s updated several times a season with a constantly developing fuel and a completely different approach to it from tires, fueling, aerodynamics, steering, damping and whatever category you wish to consider, while the other runs a 7 year old chassis that runs on a 7 year old V6 turbo on ethanol.
        As for the aerotweaking, nope. Everything is shared in the series, and the aero comes from Dallara.

      2. @racerdude7730, as noted by others, the regulations within IndyCar are quite prescriptive and would therefore limit what McLaren could do to modify or adapt the car significantly.

        Also, with regards to the production of suspension components, I wouldn’t necessarily assume that McLaren would be able to gain an advantage there either. You have to remember that Penske, which is one of the leading teams in IndyCar, is also a major manufacturer of components in their own right, including suspension components – in the past, Penske were actually producing components for the suspension systems that McLaren were using in F1.

    13. so … basically, no more focus on winning F1 titles.. looks like happy being just another also-ran team to fill up the grid and may be aim for 4th at best.

      1. What a silly childish observation. Many, many commerical companies successfully run three or four divisions without one compromising the others. And many race teams (especially in the US) run three or more differing (and winning) divisions within the organisation. Penske for example run Indy, Nascar, IMSA Sportscars and Supercars teams. Same goes for Ganassi with Indy, Nascar and WEC Endurance. Andretti runs Indy, Indy lightrs, WEC, Supercars and Formula E.

        Perhaps it is European thinking that Formula 1 teams should only run F1 teams and nothing else. Problem is you get to narrow a focus on their racing exposure and an option, to emulate McLaren to branch out into other forms of motor sport, has a potential of broadening racing experience and knowledge. Less navel gazing, more alternative input into answers might be just what F1 anf F1 tams needs.

        Not to long ago Red Bull lent Adrian Newey to Ben Ainslie sailing to help with the British Americas Cup program. That cross over helps giving one fresh perspective in regards potential applications of aero design.

        One also forgets that entry into Indy Cars for McLaren is a marketing exercise to gain greater exposure in the all important American market. Potentially Ferrari, Mercedes, Renault may follow suit.

        With Formula 1 not getting much traction in the USA, the car manufacturers, Red Bull and possibly Haas will enter teams into Indy cars to gain that marketing edge.

        1. I agree except that Penske is the only one to win championships in the two biggest series. Joe Saward has noted that McLaren hasn’t won a championship in F1 whenever they have tried something else. Still, I think McLaren looks to be sandboxed enough to let each division do their own thing and be successful.

          As for the manufacturers, I could see Merc and Renault possibly supplying engines at some point. Ferrari doesn’t seem to need Indy. RB would be a maybe. Haas already has Nascar, but with Tony Stewart I could see an interest.

          1. Ericglo, in the past, Ferrari took quite a few cracks at developing an IndyCar to compete in the Indianapolis 500 – there were the official works entries in the 1950s, followed by multiple attempts to revive the project in the 1960s and 1970s as well.

            There was also the 637, the planned CART entry for 1987 that, contrary to the popular myth about it being a bluff to make the FIA accept V12 engines for the planned 3.5 litre regulations from 1989 onwards, was a pretty concerted effort (the real reason for Ferrari abandoning the CART project seems to have been John Barnard pressuring the team to cut the CART project and Ferrari being unable to get enough sponsorship to cover the cost of competing in both CART and Formula 1).

            That said, the indication is that not many outfits are interested in producing engines for IndyCar because the rules set the engine lease costs significantly below the cost of production, so Honda and Chevrolet are losing quite a significant amount of money on each engine they sell.

            The main reason why both of those companies have been trying to get IndyCar to sign more engine manufacturers has been because they want to cut the amount of money they are losing on supplying engines. Of course, the fact that you are effectively asking companies to agree to lose large quantities of money for relatively little in return is making it very difficult for IndyCar to persuade other engine manufacturers to join them.

            1. There is more to supplying racing engines then purely ROI. There is a value in being in a series purely from a marketing and promotional view point.

              A little dated but worth a read in full. https://www.autonews.com/article/20170522/OEM06/305229861/why-does-honda-stick-with-indy

              “And Honda, it’s worth remembering, builds more internal combustion engines a year globally than anyone else. Proving what Honda engines can do via competition, even in a race series with limited popularity, is crucial for the brand. ”

              I would say the same with Chevrolet. The returns are not monetary but quantifiable brand promotion.

              This is exactly the same for every F1 team supplier. All are lost making in regards ROI. They are ALL about brand promotion. I doubt Honda make money selling F1 engines to Red Bull. Neither does Renault or Mercedes.

    14. Unlike their F1 program, I assume the McLaren IndyCar sponsorship program is completely sold out as it was for the 500. No room left on the car. The IndyCar program then takes nothing away from the F1 budget. It’s completely self sustaining and will probably help with more F1 sponsorship from Arrow. A mystery to me why Merc and Ferrari haven’t done the same.

      Now Alonso just needs to do what he’s wanted since 2017 and just take a seat. He’s waisting time doing anything else.

      He hasn’t performed very well, but feel for Marcus Ericsson. I hope he can find a ride elsewhere in the series.

      Good luck all.

    15. Comments about Alonso returning are becoming very abnoxius. Hopefully they are not dumb to get him back. Mclaren and Honda were paying him 30 millions per season and the diva managed to tarnish both companies, since he is self procalimed best driver in the world. He cant get a seat in Mercedes, he cant get a seat in RedBull (since Honda has learned their lesson with him) and he cant get a seat in Ferrari. Hopefully Mclaren finally shuts the door for him as well. Talent is worthles if his personality is poisoning the teams he joins. PS: If you get paid 30+ millions per season youre mouth should be closed shut, even if u get a wheelbarrow to drive. – and if he had any problem with Mclaren being slow, he could quit at any time, but aparently he likes the color green too much.

    16. With McLaren resources, I expect the team to challenge Penske, Ganassi and Andretti for the title. If you add RL Racing, we will have at least 12 drivers with serious aspirations to the Championship. Add the new 1000bhp engine to be introduced in a couple years, IndyCar will be an exciting series to watch. Im loving this.

    17. Why? McLaren are on their way up currently in f1. Please explain your thought process in your comment.

      1. Simple reason, because like Mt Everest, it is there to be conquered.

        Even simpler, because they can.

        Another simple reason, F1 participation does not help McLaren sell their cars in the North American market. Indycar participation can. Remember McLaren also have a very large division called Applied Technology. If you look at the calibre and background of the divisions new CEO, you would not be surprised that the McLaren brand is heavily being promoted in the USA. https://www.mclaren.com/group/news/articles/anthony-murray-appointed-ceo-mclaren-applied-technologies/

        Worth a read in full.

        https://www.mclaren.com/group/companies/mclaren-applied-technologies/

        “McLaren Applied Technologies is now active in four core markets including; health, public transport, automotive and motorsport. The company has expanded into new territories including London, Singapore and locations across North America, all of which house some of the finest engineering, design and commercial talent in the world.”

        Even a more simpler reason, Winning in F1 is not the be all and end all, from a marketing perspective.

        Perhaps it is a sign that winning F1 is no longer the holy grail to stardom it once was. A brand exposure, to other series participation has higher benefit rewards versus cost expenditure.

        F1 should be worried that other brands in their series might follow McLaren to use Indycars for greater brand exposure in the USA from a base that accountants love, a great deal lesser expenditure (bigger bangs for less bucks).

        1. Spot on. I’ve been saying this for a long time. Sell more cars and other services in the States and cross market the F1 and IndyCar teams. I would assume that Merc and Ferrari will do the same as they realize how this helps McLaren on the business side. Seems like a no brainer.

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