Nothing Could Save McLaren’s Indy 500 Effort

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Fernando Alonso sits in his car Sunday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. (Al Steinberg photo)
Fernando Alonso sits in his car Sunday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. (Al Steinberg photo)

INDIANAPOLIS — McLaren’s effort to make the field for the 103rd Indianapolis 500 was like watching the Titanic sink. It was long, it was slow and in the end, there was little anyone could do to save it from submerging.

From the Indy 500 open test on April 24 until the last car in the Last Row Shootout bumped McLaren and Fernando Alonso out of the 33-car starting lineup, it was an epic embarrassment for the once-proud McLaren.

Alonso’s fate was determined by the last driver to make an attempt in the shootout, a young racer from Santa Clara, Calif., and a part-time driver in the series named Kyle Kaiser. He put up a surprisingly good four-lap average and McLaren was out of the race.

“I’m disappointed now,” Alonso said. “It would be nice to be in the race next Sunday. We came here to race and to challenge ourselves, and we were not quick enough. I congratulate all the other guys that did a better job, and hopefully we’ll see a nice show next Sunday, everyone safe, and enjoying from the TV unfortunately.”

McLaren Chief Executive Zak Brown was the driving force in McLaren returning to the Indy 500 for the first time since 2017. Gil De Ferran was entrusted with the program to give the driver a chance to contend up front.

They never came close to topping the speed chart

“This has been a very emotional and difficult experience, I think, not only for me but for the whole team,” De Ferran said. “I want to take this opportunity to apologize and thank the fans, not only here in the U.S. but globally who have been following our progress. I read a lot of nice things and some great messages all over the place. So, thank you, and I’m sorry we won’t be in the Indy 500.”

De Ferran was asked if McLaren might “buy its way” into the starting lineup by purchasing a car that was already qualified into the starting lineup. Indy 500 rules state it’s the car that qualifies for the race, and not the driver.

That is not an option, according to De Ferran.

“We will not do that,” De Ferran said defiantly. “We want to earn our place in the field.”

De Ferran wants to return one day and fight again. For Alonso, it remains too early to decide if he will attempt another run at the Indianapolis 500.

“Right now, I think it’s difficult to make any promises,” Alonso said. “It’s just too soon to make decisions. I don’t know even what I will do after next month. I have Le Mans 24 hours, finish my program in the World Endurance championship, and I wanted to have the 2020 open because I don’t know exactly what opportunities may come for me for next year in terms of racing. I don’t know the program for next year, I cannot promise or have any idea in my mind.

“But as I always say, I would be more than happy to race here again in the future and to win the Triple Crown, which is still a target or different target. Maybe I race different series with different challenges. Maybe next year, as well, completely out of my comfort zone again, and maybe, this type of challenge, they can bring you a lot of success and you can be part of the history of the sport or can be really disappointed.

“Today is one of those.

“But I prefer to be here than to be like millions and millions of other people, at home watching TV.

“I prefer to try.”