When the president of McLaren Racing’s IndyCar efforts Bob Fernley and team sporting director Gil de Ferran faced a packed media room in the midst of the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg weekend, the brand’s future in North America’s premier open-wheel championship was an unavoidable topic.
The team will utilize engineering support from Carlin at the 103rd Running of the Indianapolis 500 this May as the platform for Fernando Alonso’s second attempt at the race and second shot at becoming the second driver to complete the unofficial triple crown of motor sport.
The uniqueness of the Indianapolis 500 will see Alonso and the No. 66 Chevrolet take to the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway for almost countless laps during the all-Indianapolis month of the NTT IndyCar Series season, but a McLaren entry becoming a more permanent fixture — racing beyond Indianapolis — has been a desire of fans the British marque is yet to satisfy.
“I think in general it’s too early to speculate what lies beyond the Indianapolis 500,” de Ferran said when asked about a full-season McLaren IndyCar program or a dual-car Indy 500 approach for next year.
“All of our efforts are just to do the best job we can for the 500. I mean, it’s no secret that we continue to evaluate a deeper involvement as McLaren in IndyCar racing. But I have nothing really to comment about that at this point.”
Fernley, who reports directly to McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown, insisted that future expansion into IndyCar hinges on events yet to unfold.
“The focus for me is simply doing a good job at the Indy 500,” said Fernley. “Once we do that, the shareholders will see everything and decide where they want to go.”
Aiming to cut through canned public relations speak, the media member who asked about McLaren’s IndyCar future pushed forward, asking clearly: “No plans confirmed for 2020?”
“Not at all,” Fernley offered, also clarifying a total lack of interest in running a second car for the upcoming Indy 500.
After its initial foray on the shoulders of Andretti Autosport in 2017, McLaren’s independent participation in IndyCar, as of now, begins and ends with Alonso’s second “500,” set to take place May 26.