In what isn’t a complete surprise, McLaren will not mount a full-time effort in IndyCar in 2019.
After months of speculation, McLaren boss Zak Brown announced Friday that the organization will hold off on entering IndyCar until at least 2020 so that it can continue to devote more time and resources to rebuild its lagging Formula One program.
“We’ve taken the decision to not compete on a full-time basis in 2019,” Brown said, according to ESPN. “We’re simply not ready yet and are focused on Formula One, so we won’t be doing that in 2019.
“We do have the desire, as we’ve mentioned before, in the near future.”
However, Brown – who spoke with reporters Friday at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, site of this Sunday’s U.S. Grand Prix – did not rule out the possibility that McLaren could still enter a car in the 2019 Indianapolis 500.
McLaren took part in a joint venture with Andretti Autosport to field Fernando Alonso in the 2017 Indianapolis 500. Alonso led 27 of the race’s 200 laps, and appeared to be a strong contender to win until his car suffered engine failure late in the race. Takuma Sato ultimately won the race.
If McLaren does field an entry in the 2019 Indy 500, it likely would be another partnership situation. Speculation has included a partnership between McLaren and Andretti Autosport once again, as well as talk of a deal with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.
“As far as the Indy 500 (in 2019) is concerned, it’s something that remains of interest to us,” Brown said. “That’ll be a decision that ultimately we take in the off-season and it’s something Fernando would like to do.”
Alonso has announced that this will be his final season in F1, of which he’s a two-time past champion.
“Right now we’re still focused on Formula One and until we get a little bit of fresh air we’ll remain focused on that,” Brown said.
It’s unclear what Alonso will do for 2019 in terms of open-wheel racing. He tested an Andretti Autosport Indy car for a full day last month at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama.
Speculation on McLaren’s pullback from racing in IndyCar next season also centers about whether it would be able to get an adequate powerplant to field an entry for all 17 races in 2019.
Honda has balked at the possibility of providing engines to McLaren due to past issues involving the F1 program.
Chevrolet, the only other engine provider in IndyCar, could be a potential supplier, but there does not appear to be a current IndyCar team that would be able to field a car for Alonso.