We finally have it after all the months of speculation. The continuous “no comments” from both Schmidt-Peterson Motorsports and McLaren about an incurring deal with the European motorsports outfit, and the wishy-washiness of McLaren CEO Zak Brown about a full-time IndyCar entry for the 2020 season, we have an official answer.
McLaren will be on the grid; full-time.
McLaren failed to qualify for this year’s Indianapolis 500 as an independent team. It was apparent that if they wanted to go IndyCar racing, that a partnership with an existing team would be the preferred way to do it. I wrote my blog posting of “#fastest33” about the future of McLaren in IndyCar. I stated that it would not be surprising to see an announcement between McLaren and SMP on a joint venture in the future as Arrow sponsored both outfits. Well, fast forward two and a half months, and it seems as though this partnership has come to fruition.
An integral part of this partnership is the commitment SPM is making in switching engine manufactures from the Japanese powerhouses of Honda to the American bowties of Chevrolet. It appears that the messy recent history between Honda and McLaren will continue to spill over into IndyCar. Which brings to question what their driver line-up will look like in 2020?
Announced for 2020, Arrow McLaren SP would field only two cars; currently James Hinchcliffe and Marcus Ericsson pilot those two cars. For fans of Robert Wickens rest easy, as his seat is assured with the team when/if he decides to come back to IndyCar.
Ericsson signed a one-year contract before the 2019 season started and is looking to secure his place on the grid for next year. Does this new partnership secure his future within the series? I believe it hurts Ericsson more than anything. Especially with Alonso, the two-time Formula One Champion not having any concrete plans for his racing future. Remember that he is still associated with McLaren and is still searching for his Triple Crown.
As for Hinchcliffe-a Honda Ambassador-stated earlier today after the official announcement from the team, through his various social media outlets, that he is excited for what 2020 will bring to him and Arrow McLaren SP. His contract with Schmidt-Peterson expires at the end of next season.
But will Honda let Hinchcliffe go so quickly to the manufacture of Chevrolet, even if it is only for a season to finish his contract? Will Arrow, who has been a sponsor of Hinchcliffe since 2015, let him walk away from their brand? Does Honda try to find Hinchcliffe a seat at another Honda team like Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing? They have been rumored in the last several days to be in the works for adding a third car to their stable. Will Chip Ganassi have a chance at snatching one of these drivers if they become available?
Don’t forget about the implication that this deal has for Mayer Shank Racing. With Schmidt-Peterson Motorsports switch in engine manufacture, MSR’s partnership with them effectively comes to an end. MSR is partnered with Honda’s luxury brand Acura in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
One thing is for sure, IndyCar’s silly season is in full swing and McLaren has thrown their monkey wrench.
photo credit: Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports