A Full-Time IndyCar Program in 2020 Isn’t ‘Likely’ for McLaren After Its Indy 500 Failure

The 2019 Indianapolis 500 was meant to be a gauge for McLaren, to see where it sat in terms of starting a full-time IndyCar program—possibly as soon as next year. But it turned into much more than that with McLaren’s failure to qualify and overall disastrous try, and it seems like that’s impacted its timeline.

Racer published an interview with McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown on Thursday, going into even more detail about how badly McLaren’s racing division, which is known to blow it in Formula One, blew it this time and how that changes its ideas about when it’ll get more involved in IndyCar. The team even apologized to its Indy 500 driver, semi-retired F1 star Fernando Alonso, for failing him.

The story describes a bleak scene at the McLaren hospitality unit on race day in the Monaco paddock, where McLaren’s F1 team had run that series’ biggest race earlier in the day. The story said what should’ve been a tense time cheering on the IndyCar branch was, instead, “a non-event. Ten people sat around watching the Indy 500, while the majority of the team continued with their work and the hospitality crew packed up.”

But the new development in the story is more big picture than one very sad race day. It’s that Brown told Racer McLaren won’t try to enter a race again this year, despite having a car and a freed-up schedule with Alonso, and that “a race or two in early 2020 is much more likely than a full-time program” that season. The general idea before now has been that 2020 could be the year McLaren enters IndyCar full time, but that nothing is set on the team’s end.

Here’s what Brown said, via Racer:

“We want to go back. Until we do the post-mortem and then sit around the table and go, ‘What did we learn? What would we do differently next time?’. Then the conversation becomes that we want to do it, is there anything that we find we should have done differently but we can’t right now for whatever reason?

“So that will be the sequence: What happened? What would we do differently? Do we want to go back? We want to go back. We will go back. Will we go back in 2020? That will depend on what went wrong this year – can we make sure that’s not going to happen next year?”

(Photo by LAT Images)

Brown has said already that the Indy 500 failure won’t derail McLaren’s IndyCar future, and told Racer that the team’s IndyCar plans don’t center around Alonso’s involvement. But the race attempt seems to have significantly pushed back the timeline McLaren never really argued reports of, and maybe that’s for the best—the last thing McLaren needs is another racing program with more running jokes than championship points on the board.