Would Fernando Alonso Actually Leave F1 To Race In IndyCar Full Time?

McLaren executive director Zak Brown told Autoweek on Monday that it was "highly unlikely" that McLaren would return to the Indianapolis 500 in 2018, but he believes it is probable for 2019.

The statement comes in advance of the United States Grand Prix at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas.

McLaren’s return to the Indianapolis 500 with two-time Formula 1 world champion Fernando Alonso dominated the storylines heading into the 101st Indianapolis 500 this past May. Alonso skipped the famed Grand Prix of Monaco, F1’s premier event, to compete in the Indy 500.

The Spaniard was a fan favorite and quickly adapted to the high-speed oval at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He qualified fifth, led four times for 27 laps before his Honda engine blew up just 21 laps from the checkered flag.

McLaren is moving from Honda to Renault for 2018, and because of that, Brown wants to restore McLaren to competitiveness in Formula 1 before taking on another effort in the Indianapolis 500.

"Never say never, but I think it’s less likely than more likely," Brown said via a telephone conversation. "When we return to Indy -- and I think it is ‘when,’ rather than ‘if’ -- we need to go with the same amount of competitiveness and fanfare that we created this year. We set a high bar so that won’t be easy.

"We aren’t interested in going to Indy just to go to Indy. We must go with a shot to win and a very high-profile effort. Today, we are so focused on Formula 1 and what Fernando will do next year at Monaco with a very competitive race car."

So is the Indy 500 a long shot?

"Yes," Brown said.

>Fernando Alonso still not committing to McLaren F1 for 2018

>Formula 1

Fernando Alonso still not committing to McLaren F1 for 2018

McLaren F1's Fernando Alonso continues to weigh his driving options for 2018.Following the McLaren-Honda split, it has been expected that Alonso will stay at the newly Renault-powered British ...

Alonso is currently not signed with any F1 team for 2018 but Brown said, "Things are moving along in a very positive direction, and we hope to have a positive announcement regarding Fernando’s return very soon."

Brown would also like to someday create a full-time Verizon IndyCar Series team.

"Right now, we are laser-focused on getting our Formula 1 team back to its winning ways and we hope to start that process next year," Brown said. "A collaborative Indy 500 effort like we did this year (with Andretti Autosport) is something we continue to evaluate because we can turn pretty quickly.

"Starting our own IndyCar team is a completely different undertaking. We do have a desire for McLaren to race in IndyCar in the future. It’s a great racing series relevant to our brand. North America is an important marketplace for us. But I think that is a couple of years away."

Brown said any additional racing activities do not detract from its Formula 1 effort, can be competitive and must be commercially viable.

"With all that we have going on right now, spending time on that will detract from our Formula 1 effort," Brown said. "We are years away from fielding an IndyCar team, but it is something we are looking at would like to do.

"In the short term, we can see an Indy 500 program. It’s less likely in 2018 and more likely in 2019 and beyond."

A full-time McLaren IndyCar effort could feature a big-name driver combined with a young, up-and-comer. He also likes the 2018 universal aero kit.

 "The new car looks great, and I’m really pleased about that because the existing Indy car was not one of the better Indy cars of all time," Brown said. "I’m very happy with the change.

"Whatever McLaren does with drivers, I could see it being a big-name veteran with a hot shoe alongside. It doesn’t have to be someone with IndyCar experience. Whatever McLaren does, it has to win races and championships."

Brown, who is from Los Angeles and ran JMI, a highly successful sports-marketing company in Zionsville, Indiana, before moving to McLaren, believes F1 has finally solidified an American base.

"This is a hometown race for all of us with American accents," Brown said of the USGP. "I’m hopeful the Austin Grand Prix will stay along for a long time and how Formula 1 looks on American turf with Liberty’s leadership."

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Source : http://autoweek.com/article/indycar/mclaren-f1-boss-zak-brown-says-2019-indy-500-bid-more-likely-next-year

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