Megennis (left) and Fischer (right). Photos: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

MRTI: Pelfrey retains Megennis, Fischer for second seasons

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Team Pelfrey has confirmed its first two drivers for its Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires programs in 2017, with Robert Megennis (Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda) and TJ Fischer (Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires) set for their second seasons in each of the respective championships. The team has moved its operations for both to Indianapolis over the winter.

Megennis was perhaps the revelation of the 2016 USF2000 campaign, as the series’ top rookie at just age 16. He has the potential to win races and contend for a title this year, as the USF2000 championship shifts to the debut of the new Tatuus USF-17 chassis.

“I am delighted to be returning to the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda with Team Pelfrey. The revitalized team, relocated to Indianapolis, will be hard to beat,” said Megennis, who will drive the No. 80 Palo Alto Networks entry. “After the awesome rookie season we had in 2016, I’m super excited to see what we can do in our second year in the series and my third year in yellow!”

Fischer moved up midseason from USF2000 into Pro Mazda. The Californian was consistent, frequently finishing between fifth and sixth, and has potential to become a podium regular this year.

“It’s clear, they have won the past two Pro Mazda titles, and the demeanor within the team shows why they’ve been so successful. Last year, I got a taste of what racing in the Pro Mazda Championship was like and now I am able to learn from the 2016 season and apply it to a full proper year,” said Fischer, who during the year will work to increase awareness on his Project O2 initiative. Fischer created the O2 campaign, which is designed to inform, inspire, and innovate a new path to asthma awareness.

These two signings should kick off a flurry of Mazda Road to Indy announcements for Pro Mazda and USF2000 over the next month or so, before the official preseason test takes place in Homestead, Fla. at the end of February.

Fernando Alonso will decide this summer whether to pursue F1 again

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Fernando Alonso said he will determine by this summer if he would consider a return to Formula One next season.

After announcing Tuesday that he will return to Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May with Arrow McLaren Racing SP, Alonso said “right now the Indy 500 will take all of my concentration” but left the door open for F1 in 2021.

“In my case, probably during the summer period, I’ll make a decision on 2021 if Formula One is still appealing to me,” Alonso told IndyCar on NBC announcer Leigh Diffey in an interview (watch the video above). “The 2021 rules (in F1) are definitely a step forward, and hopefully things can be more mixed and not only three teams capable of winning races. So all this factors into play. I may consider that possibility.”

Alonso won consecutive Formula One championships in 2005-06 with Renault. He has 32 victories in an F1 career that started in 2001 and also includes stints at Ferrari and McLaren.

His last victory on the circuit was May 12, 2013 in Barcelona. He is winless in his most recent 110 starts, including the past 77 races with McLaren in 2015-18.

The Guardian recently reported that McLaren CEO Zak Brown said Alonso wouldn’t be returning to F1 with the team.

Alonso also told Diffey that returning to F1 from a two-season absence wouldn’t necessarily be linked to McLaren’s performance.

“I think they did well last year, and hopefully they make another step forward and close to the top three because they deserve it and are a fantastic team,” he said.

Though he is optimistic about more parity, Alonso said six-time champion Lewis Hamilton should be a favorite for the 2020 title based on preseason testing in which Mercedes turned heads with a new steering system.

“It seemed Mercedes is still quite competitive,” Alonso said. “They show enormous potential on the development side and on the progress from one year to next. Formula One is impossible to predict because many things happen in season.

“At the starting point, (Mercedes) are the favorites. When you have Lewis in the car and Mercedes with the potential they have, they have to be No. 1 probably.”