Fernando Alonso will reunite with McLaren to attempt 2020 Indy 500

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Fernando Alonso will return to Indianapolis Motor Speedway this May with a new team but a familiar brand.

The two-time Formula One champion will attempt to qualify for the 104th Indianapolis 500 in a third car with Arrow McLaren Racing SP, which is running full-time entries for Pato O’Ward and Oliver Askew. The team formerly known as Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports picked up a new partner this year in McLaren, which fielded Alonso in Formula One in the 2007 and ‘15-18 seasons.

“It’s obviously one of the most iconic races in the motorsports calendar, and I’m extremely happy to be in the month of May again,” Alonso, who will drive the Ruoff Mortgage-sponsored No. 66 Dallara-Chevrolet, told IndyCar on NBC announcer Leigh Diffey in an interview about his Indy 500 return (watch the video above). “After last year, we had some issues, and it was not the race we were expecting. This year we go again with the aim to do well and to win the race.

“Definitely once you experience the Indy 500, it’ll remain always in your heart. The fans are amazing. The show is unbelievable, and the race itself is one of the greatest. In 2017, we had the real chance to be competitive and to feel that adrenaline.”

In his Indy 500 debut three years ago, Alonso led 27 laps for Andretti Autosport and finished 24th after an engine failure with 21 laps left.

With victories in the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the Monaco Grand Prix, Alonso, 38, is trying to win the Indy 500 and complete the “Triple Crown of Motorsport” that has been achieved only by Graham Hill.

“I think the Indy 500 is one of the most impressive races,” Alonso said. “The Indy 500 competes the big three races in motorsports and in three completely different disciplines. It makes you quite a complete driver. That’s what I’m looking for in this stage of my career.

“The Indy 500 is probably the biggest priority for me now.”

Last year, Alonso failed to qualify in a McLaren Dallara-Chevrolet that wasn’t aligned with a winning team. Carlin Racing, a midpack team that had familiarity with McLaren from its England origins and European background, was its engineering partner. As an Indy 500 one-off, McLaren wasn’t able to run Alonso in any other races.

With McLaren aligned with two full-time entries for 2020, there is the possibility this year that Alonso might run the Indianapolis Grand Prix on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course as a warmup for the May 24 running of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

“I know Helio (Castroneves) and some of the big guys are doing it as preparation,” Alonso said. “Now that McLaren is doing the full (IndyCar) championship, there’s a possibility we may think about that. Right now, it’s the Indy 500, and in the next couple of weeks, we’ll decide how the preparation will go.”

The Spaniard said he had conversations with Andretti Autosport (which reportedly was close to a deal but nixed by Honda) and other teams about racing at Indy this year. But Arrow McLaren Racing SP emerged as virtually the only competitive candidate (as reported last week by NBCSports.com).

“I already said last year I wanted to explore more options,” Alonso said. “Andretti and McLaren are the ones I feel in my heart are like family. At the end, it was the natural choice to go with McLaren, especially after last year, and give the fans something back after the disappointment of last year.”

Missing the iconic race in 2019 didn’t dampen Alonso’s enthusiasm for returning to partake in its history and tradition.

“I think the Indy 500 is on top of all the events I’ve ever participated,” he said. “The atmosphere, the adrenaline, the traditions. All the celebrations before the race. Even the milk. It arrives in a fridge Sunday morning and goes to the Pagoda.

“There are things as a driver you understand the importance of the moment and how big that race is worldwide.”

Alonso, who raced last month in the Dakar Rally, said the Indy 500 would have his full focus over the next three months. He has left the door open to returning to Formula One next year, though, and said he will decide on his 2021 racing schedule this summer.

Sergio Perez wins rain-delayed race in Singapore over Leclerc; Verstappen seventh

Sergio Perez Singapore
Clive Rose/Getty Images,
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SINGAPORE — Max Verstappen’s Formula One title celebrations were put on hold after the Red Bull driver placed seventh at a chaotic Singapore Grand Prix, won by his teammate Sergio Perez on Sunday.

Perez’s second win of the season saw him finish 7.6 seconds ahead of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, with Leclerc’s teammate Carlos Sainz Jr. in third place.

Perez was investigated for a potential safety car infringement but still kept the win after a 5-second time penalty for dropping too far back after being warned.

Verstappen had won the past five races but needed to win here and finish 22 points ahead of Leclerc to be crowned champion for a second straight season. That could happen next weekend at the Japanese GP.

Verstappen made a mistake after the second safety car restart, following AlphaTauri driver Yuki Tsunoda’s crash on Lap 36. When Verstappen tried to overtake Lando Norris’ McLaren, he locked his tires and needed to pit again.

Leclerc started from pole position with Verstappen going from eighth after a team blunder in qualifying.

The race start was delayed by more than an hour to clear water off the Marina Bay Circuit track following heavy rainfall. Drivers had to finish the 61-lap race within a two-hour window; 59 laps were completed.

Tricky conditions saw the virtual safety car deployed three times and DRS was allowed with about 30 minutes remaining.

Perez made a good start and jumped past Leclerc while Verstappen dropped several places. The first safety car was on Lap 8 when Zhou Guanyu’s Alfa Romeo was cut off by Nicholas Latifi’s Williams.

Perez got away cleanly at the restart, while Verstappen climbed into seventh behind Fernando Alonso – whose 350th F1 race ended disappointingly when his engine failed on Lap 21, bringing out the first VSC.

With the track still damp, drivers decided against changing to quicker tires – apart from Mercedes’ George Russell, who struggled for grip.

Hamilton made a rare mistake on Lap 33 and thudded into the crash barrier. Soon after, the leading drivers changed tires in a flurry of stops. They did so just before the safety car was deployed again following Tsunoda’s error.

Verstappen overtook Sebastian Vettel’s Aston Martin right at the end for seventh place.