McLaren, a Goliath within the racing world, has failed to qualify for the Indianapolis 500 by 0.019mph! McLaren and their driver, two-time Formula One Champion, Fernando Alonso were bumped out of the #fastest33 by David himself: Juncos Racing. One of the smallest teams racing on the IndyCar grid. Oh yeah, I can’t fail to mention that Juncos lost two significant sponsors earlier in the week.
Is anyone looking for a place to spend their advertising dollars? I may know of a car that will be getting plenty of on-air screen time.
What does this failure mean for McLaren and their future endeavors in the NTT IndyCar series? Does Fernando Alonso cut his ties with McLaren for his next attempt in The Indy 500? Does Zak Brown’s seat as McLaren Racing Chief Executive Officer get a little hotter? How does this failure affect any alliances they may have in the future? I have so many questions, and there is so much speculation swirling through Gasoline Ally. And at the moment, the comforts of my couch.
The first question I have for McLaren is, are there any second thoughts to joining in 2020 as they have planned? They have been very open to the fact that they would like to purchase or form an alliance with an existing team. Rumor has it that Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports are McLaren’s prime target for either possibility. Both co-owners of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports have adamantly stated that the team is not for sale. McLaren has also declined to provide a comment on the matter. In a lighthearted response, Ric Peterson of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports said that “he has finally got their heads above water” as they have signed a five year deal with Arrow earlier this year. Coincidentally, Arrow partnered with McLaren Racing to not only be on their car for the 500 but their Formula One car as well. It wouldn’t be too far out of reach to see an alliance between SPM and McLaren if and when McLaren join full-time next season.
Or in any capacity for that matter.
McLaren opted not to have an alliance with Andretti Autosports and the Honda power unit used during their last 500 attempt. Instead, they decided to enter this year as an independent entry with a Chevrolet engine powering their Dallara IR-12 chassis. According to many reports, this team showed the inexperience and lack of preparation that is needed for The Indy 500. Perhaps an alliance would have done them some good this year. Perhaps their success in 2017 was more Andretti than McLaren themselves.
Is that a hot take?
My second question is will Fernando Alonso cut his ties with McLaren for his next attempt to achieve the Triple Crown of Motorsports? Perhaps he looks toward an experienced team like Penske, Andretti, or Ganassi that can put him in proven equipment to accomplish this feat. Alonso is 37 and seems far from retiring, but how much longer does Alonso want to pursue this as a one-off event? I still have the belief that he will announce his commitment to the NTT IndyCar Series full-time. It does have to come with serious thought as to what McLaren can offer him in his immediate future.
Zak Brown, is your seat getting a little warmer? Not more than 24 hours since the disappointment of not making IndyCar’s most prestigious event, Bob Fernley, team principal of McLaren’s IndyCar operation was relieved of his duties. Again, their lack of preparation and inexperience were echoed by “The Golden Boy” Alonso himself. He has stated that their pace was slow, not only on the race track but in the garage as well. He compared themselves to the team of Juncos Racing and their ability and competency in putting their car back together overnight. Whereas Alonso wrecked on Wednesday afternoon and McLaren didn’t have the car ready until Friday morning. This inability to fix the car quickly resulted in McLaren losing a day of valuable and precious track time for the one-off team.
Failure in this sport doesn’t always boil down to just one person. When it does, it is typically the driver. When you are a one-off team, and your name is McLaren, there needs to be a scapegoat, and unfortunately for Bob Fernley, they found one.
The scapegoat sure as hell wasn’t going to be Alonso. At least, not this time around, or perhaps, ever.
For Zak Brown, I believe the fire isn’t as hot as some expect. We’ve got to remember, IndyCar is the noncommittal side project that has as much (or more) to do with Alonso than it does McLaren. While missing “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” is not a good look for McLaren, their cars are fourth in F1 constructor standings, and that is their main priority. Zak Brown is on record during the Long Beach Grand Prix weekend stating that joining the IndyCar Series is “more of a when not if.”
So when will it be McLaren? Does this setback delay any thoughts? More importantly, did this failure delay any possible future financial commitments? I’m sure these questions will only be answered with time.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a cruel mistress. She rewards those that work hard, put in the time, effort, and respect the incredible wonder that she is. Not everyone gets in because not everyone deserves to get in. McLaren will not buy Alonso a seat to enter the race. Good, because they didn’t earn their way into the race in the first place.