INDIANAPOLIS – Less than two months after the contract between McLaren and Fernando Alonso expired, the two are back together again and this time they’re ready to take care of some unfinished business in the Indianapolis 500.
McLaren, which became a major ownership partner in Arrow McLaren SP last year, will field a third entry for Alonso in the 104th Indianapolis 500. The two-time Formula One World Champion will join Arrow McLaren SP drivers Oliver Askew and Pato O’Ward in a three-car effort at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
“Clearly, we all have some unfinished business with Alonso at the Indianapolis 500,” McLaren CEO Zak Brown said during Tuesday’s announcement. “We’re looking forward to going to Indy and putting on a competitive showing.”
The driver from Spain is determined to conquer the Indianapolis 500 and win the Triple Crown – the Grand Prix of Monaco, the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the Indianapolis 500. He has won the first two, but Indy is the missing jewel.
“I am a racer and the Indy 500 is the greatest race in the world,” Alonso said when the deal became official on Tuesday. “I love the incredible fans who make it so special for all of us drivers and make me want to come back. I have maximum respect for this race and everyone who competes in it and all I want to do is race against them and give my best, as always.
“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 relationship with McLaren; we’ve been through a lot together and that creates a bond, a loyalty that is strong.
“But more than that, I am impressed with how the new organization and operation is developing into a strong package with the Chevrolet partnership. The team has experienced, well-qualified people and great resources, and I’m confident we can be competitive.
“I’m focused and excited to begin our preparations. It will also be great to work with Oliver and Pato, two fantastic young talents for the future who are growing all the time.”
McLaren and Alonso partnered with Andretti Autosport for the 101st Indianapolis 500 in 2017. The partnership was a smashing success as Alonso qualified fifth, led 24 laps in the race and was in contention for the victory until the engine in Alonso’s car failed 21 laps from the finish.
Alonso returned to Indy last year in a full-fledged McLaren effort. They failed to make the field of 33, with Alonso the last driver knocked out of the field during the Last Row Shootout.
Alonso attempted to put a deal together with Andretti Autosport for Indy this year, but that never reached completion for a variety of circumstances. One reason was Honda Japan no longer wants to do business with the driver after disparaging comments were about Honda’s Formula One engine. Also, according to team owner Michael Andretti, terms between the driver and team could not be met.
In addition to winning the Formula One World Championship twice in his career, Alonso is also a World Endurance Champion, two-time winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans and winner of the Rolex 24 at Daytona.
He will drive the drive the No. 66 Ruoff Mortgage Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet in his quest for motorsport’s elusive and prestigious Triple Crown.
Ruoff Mortgage was Takuma Sato’s sponsor when he became the first driver from Japan to win the Indianapolis 500 in 2017.
The pairing reunites Alonso with McLaren. The contract between the two officially ended on Dec. 31, 2019. He served as a McLaren Ambassador last year in Formula One and did not compete in any F-1 events.
“We’ve always said we’re open to running Fernando in a third car for the 500, so we’re delighted he’s decided to join us,” said McLaren Chief Executive Officer Zak Brown. “Fernando is one of the greatest drivers in the sport and it’s fantastic to have him as part of the team. It’s a fine way to contest our first Indy 500 as Arrow McLaren SP and to have Ruoff Mortgage backing Fernando is a perfect partnership.”
Sam Schmidt is co-owner of Arrow McLaren SP and spoke of the decision to increase to three cars for the Indy 500.
“Adding Fernando to the team brings a level of experience and expertise that will benefit our two young, talented full-time drivers in Oliver and Pato,” Schmidt said. “We have fast cars at Indy and fully believe he has the talent to run at the front, not just participate. That, combined with Chevy power and the experience of the team, will make this trio of drivers one of the strongest in the field.
“We’re all very excited to announce Fernando as part of our team for the Indy 500.”