McLaren works IndyCar operation ‘possible’ in the future

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Following Wednesday’s announcement that Fernando Alonso will race in the 101st Indianapolis 500, McLaren shareholder Mansour Ojjeh has said it is “possible” the British marque could establish a full-works operation in the Verizon IndyCar Series in the future.

Alonso will miss the Formula 1 race in Monaco on May 28 to line up on the grid for the Indy 500, as McLaren returns to Indianapolis Motor Speedway after 38 years away with an entry supported by Honda and Andretti Autosport.

McLaren has history in the ‘500, winning the race with Johnny Rutherford in 1974 and 1976. Alonso will race in the same papaya color this year that Rutherford took to Victory Lane in each of those years, and has also returned to McLaren’s F1 car for 2017.

In a statement issued following the announcement, Ojjeh spoke about McLaren’s affinity for the ‘500 and his delight in taking the marque back to the Brickyard.

“Even though I’ve been a major shareholder and director of McLaren for more than 30 years, I arrived after our first IndyCar era had come to an end,” Ojjeh said.

“Nonetheless, I’ve attended the Indy 500, and I came away hugely impressed by the scope and scale of this enormous and well-organized event, and the sheer enthusiasm of the hundreds of thousands of fans in attendance.

“So, more than 30 years later, I’m pleased and proud that we’re about to embark on a new IndyCar era for McLaren, this time with Andretti Autosport and Honda.”

While McLaren’s entry to the ‘500 is set to be its sole appearance in the Verizon IndyCar Series for the time being, Ojjeh admitted that futher attempts at the race and even a full works operation could be considered in the future.

“The Indy 500 is the only IndyCar race we’ll be entering this year, but we may possibly repeat that in years to come and it’s just possible that we may even run a full-works McLaren IndyCar operation at some point in the future. We’ll see,” he said.

“Equally, we may potentially enter the Le Mans 24 Hours again some time – we won it outright in 1995 with our iconic McLaren F1 GTR – but to be clear we have absolutely no definite plans to do so at this stage.”

A return to Le Mans would be of particular interest to Alonso, whose entry to the ‘500 acts as the next stage in his bid to become just the second man to win the Triple Crown of Motorsport (Monaco GP, Indy 500, Le Mans).

Verstappen doesn’t want F1 season to end after recent run of form

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Max Verstappen says he is not ready for the 2017 Formula 1 season to come to an end after enjoying a run of strong form through the closing stages of the campaign.

Verstappen endured a rocky run of form through to the end of the European season that saw him suffer a number of reliability issues and score just a single podium finish, taking third in China back in April.

However, the Dutchman has rallied to score more points than any other driver in the last five races, including victories in Malaysia and Mexico, as well as a podium finish in Japan.

Verstappen heads into next weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix chasing a third win of the year to sign off, but joked he does not want the season to end just as he’s got into a good groove.

“We will, of course, try and end the season with a strong result in Abu Dhabi,” Verstappen said. “Last year was actually quite a good race after skipping a pit stop following a spin at Turn 1, it was hard to manage the tires to the end of the race but we did it and finished fourth.

“I would say that my favorite part of the track is at Turns 2 and 3, the fast left, right. It’s also very cool driving underneath the hotel and racing in the darkness with all the lights.

“The final sector at Yas Marina is actually quite technical so you have to be really precise there, but it should also be our strongest part of the track.

“There are quite a few overtaking opportunities to make the race interesting, before the long straight at the hairpin and then at the end of the straight under braking for the next chicane section.

“Abu Dhabi is the last race on the calendar, but I don’t actually want the season to end. I’m really fired up at the moment and I just want to keep going.

“The nice thing will be to spend some time with friends and family over the winter break and then I will look ahead to January and get back into training before it all starts again.”