By: David Malsher
McLaren CEO Zak Brown has admitted that it is probably only a matter of time before McLaren joins the NTT IndyCar Series with a full-time team, although whether that happens in 2020 or 2021 has still not been decided.
Following McLaren’s return to the Indianapolis 500 with Fernando Alonso as part of the Andretti Autosport team in 2017, McLaren and Alonso are heading back to IMS this year with an independent project, albeit in a relationship with sophomore IndyCar squad Carlin Racing which will see an exchange of data and feedback.
Attending the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach to compete in one of the support races, Brown told media that McLaren shareholders are very interested in joining the NTT IndyCar Series fulltime, now that leading roles in the company’s F1 squad have been filled.
“We're a big fan of this racing series,” he said. “I think Mark Miles and team have done an excellent job. The racing is outstanding – great teams, great drivers, great venues. So it's a place that McLaren would like to race.
“We've been very focused on Formula 1, and we remain very focused on Formula 1, but I've now completed the hiring of the balance of the leadership for the Formula 1 team now that James Key has started as technical director and Andreas Seidl is the managing director of the Formula 1 team. He'll join next month, and we really needed to get that completed.
“And so, going ahead and getting the equipment, making the investment in doing Indianapolis this year in the way we are is another step in that direction.
“There is no doubt that the shareholders at McLaren would like to be in IndyCar. I think it’s more of a when than an if, and if we were to do it for 2020, I think we’d need to make that decision in the summer in order to be properly prepared.
“So it's nothing that we've ruled out for 2020, and that decision will come some time in the summer, and if not then, then we'll look towards 2021.”
McLaren built a strong legacy in Indy car racing in the 1970s, both as a works team, and through other teams – notably Penske – running McLaren chassis. Three times the Indy 500 winner was racing a McLaren (Mark Donohue in 1972, Johnny Rutherford in ’74 and ’76), while Roger McCluskey in ’73 and Tom Sneva in ’77 landed the Indy car championship driving McLarens. By the time the brand pulled out of Indy car racing at the end of 1979, it had amassed 28 race victories