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Brown expects ‘positive conclusion’ to Alonso contract status soon

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Although no deal has been struck yet, McLaren’s Zak Brown is optimistic to have a new contract in place for Fernando Alonso to continue with the team soon.

The two-time Formula 1 World Champion has made no secret of his desire for McLaren’s power unit situation to improve, and with the team now having confirmed its 2018 switch from Honda to Renault at the Singapore Grand Prix weekend, getting Alonso’s contract sorted alongside Stoffel Vandoorne is the next course of action.

Brown expects to have a contract completed in the not-too-distant future and with Alonso set to feature at the FIA Press Conference on Thursday, the potential exists that a contract could get sorted this week.

“We’ve been close for some time,” Brown told U.S. reporters in a pre-United States Grand Prix teleconference.

“We wanted to get the Asian swing out of the way and our new power unit partner in place which is now done… (so) I expect we’ll have a positive conclusion to our plans with Fernando here in not too long.

“He’s in the FIA Press Conference on Thursday. We have to get a deal done before anything is announced.”

Brown indicated a McLaren Indianapolis 500 bow is less likely in 2018 and more likely in 2019, following this year’s shotgun marriage that saw McLaren, Andretti Autosport and Honda all work together with INDYCAR to provide Alonso a shock debut at this year’s 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil.

Any new contract for Alonso would provide for one-off race exceptions on a “case-by-case basis,” Brown said, which doesn’t come as a surprise.

“We have not signed any contracts, so until a contract is signed I don’t know what will be in or out,” Brown said.

“Fernando has a desire to win the Triple Crown as we all know. He’s a pure racer who would like to race every weekend and has a desire to race other races. It’s something we’re certainly open to doing with him when and where appropriate.

“We’re also open-minded to allow him to compete in other races on a very limited basis if the scenario is complementary to his Formula 1 efforts, and not detrimental to his Formula 1 program.

“What we wouldn’t allow is to run in multiple racing series. But like Indy, if there’s the occasional one-off, on a case-by-case basis we’ll allow him to do that.”

Such a one-off scenario, if not Indianapolis next year, could be in sports car racing.

Brown’s United Autosports team has at least one and highly likely two Ligier JS P217 prototype entries set to race at next year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona, with newly crowned FIA Formula 3 European champion Lando Norris and Philip Hanson that team’s first two named drivers.

Brown expressed interest for both McLaren to race at the 24 Hours of Le Mans as well, as has Alonso, although the regulations now don’t have a place for McLaren’s 650S GT3 or 570S GT4 car. United Autosports made its Le Mans debut this year in the LMP2 class with its European Le Mans Series regular trio of Will Owen, Hugo de Sadeleer and Filipe Albuquerque.

Le Mans does not conflict with the F1 calendar in 2018 as the 24-hour race falls between the Canadian and French Grands Prix, on June 16-17, 2018.

“Le Mans is something we’re looking at,” Brown said. “The rules right now, with what the ACO and Le Mans organizers are working on the future rules so it’s something we’re participating in meetings as a manufacturer. Le Mans is of interest but whatever rules they land on need to be a good platform. We’re monitoring and participating (in these discussions) with interest, but it’s premature to make a final decision.

“On Indy, never say never but I’d say it’s less likely than more likely (for 2018). When we go back to Indy, not if, we need to go with the same competitiveness and fanfare that we created we did this year. We set a high bar, and that won’t be easy!

“We’re not going to Indy just to go. We have to go with a shot to win and in a high profile manner. Sitting here today, we’re so focused on Formula 1. So we expect to be at Monaco with a very competitive race car.”

Times for this weekend’s United States Grand Prix on the NBC Sports networks are linked here.

Report: Spencer Pigot out at Ed Carpenter Racing

Joe Skibinski / IndyCar
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Spencer Pigot will not return to Ed Carpenter Racing in 2020, according to a story Thursday by RACER.com.

The 26-year-old Floridian, who won the 2015 Indy Lights championship, is expected to be replaced in the No. 21 Chevrolet by 2019 Indy Lights runner-up Rinus VeeKay.

“I’m appreciative of the opportunity ECR gave me,” Pigot told RACER.com. “I understand the reasons they had to go in a different direction, and wish them all the best.”

In 56 NTT IndyCar Series starts, Pigot has 15 top 10 finishes, with a best finish of second at Iowa in 2018. He finished 14th in the 2019 point standings.

VeeKay, who tested in an Indy car twice for ECR in 2019, has six wins in 18 Indy Lights starts, including a weekend sweep of the final two rounds of the season at Laguna Seca in September.

A representative from ECR told NBC Sports Thursday that the team currently could not comment on any driver rumors as the team currently does not have any drivers under contract for the 2020 season, although it is presumed that owner/driver Carpenter will return to the No. 20 entry for the oval rounds.

NBC Sports will provide updates on the story once more information becomes available.