McLaren would consider assisting an ambitious Fernando Alonso double in 2021 by running him in the Indianapolis 500 one week after he contests Formula 1’s Monaco Grand Prix with Renault.
Two-time world champion Alonso is returning to F1 next year with Renault after leaving grand prix racing and the McLaren team at the end of 2018 season, going on to win the Le Mans 24 Hours a second time and make his Dakar Rally debut.
He has also maintained close ties with McLaren, attempted to qualify for last year’s Indy 500 with the team, and will do so again this month in his bid to win the famous American race and complete motorsport’s unofficial Triple Crown.
After the 2020 Indy 500 Alonso’s focus will turn to his F1 comeback with Renault, which could put his Indy ambitions on ice. But he could decide to take advantage of the 500 and the Monaco GP unusually not being held on the same day in 2021, but rather a week apart, with the latter pencilled in for May 23 and the former for May 30.
Even though Indy 500 qualifying will instead clash with the Monaco GP next year, another driver would be allowed to qualify his car if Alonso decides to participate in the US-based event.
McLaren has its own IndyCar team now run in conjunction with Schmidt Peterson – Arrow McLaren SP – and Brown said if the stars align, Alonso would be welcome to race at Indy with his team next year.
“From our point of view next year, the races don’t conflict,” said Brown. “And the way Indy 500 is run, the car qualifies, not the driver.
“So it is not out of the question, especially as he’ll have more experience.
“If he wanted to do the Indy 500 in 2021 and his contract allowed him – I don’t know what his contract allows – you could have a situation where someone qualifies the car for him, and if he wanted to come compete at the Indy 500 in ’21.
“We’d have to see where we were at as a team, but certainly that wouldn’t be something that I would be opposed to – if we had a seat available, and he wanted to do the Indy 500 in ’21, and he was allowed to do the Indy 500 in ’21, then that scenario could play out.”
Alonso has been waiting to travel to the United States to prepare for this year’s Indy 500 because the COVID-19 pandemic has delayed the approval of the necessary authorisation for him to enter the country.
However, Brown said that had been settled this week, so Alonso will be able to head to the US next week.
IndyCar has already experienced a similar issue when it assisted regular-season drivers Rinus VeeKay (Dutch) and Alex Palou (Spanish) in travelling in from Mexico and Spain respectively for the Texas round.
“I’m not an expert on the subject so I might technically get this a little bit wrong, but there’s two different types of visas to come in and perform as an athlete,” said Brown.
“He had the ability to come into America as I do, but I’ve got a US passport, but then there’s another level for professional athletes, and that had not been granted yet.
“You have to get that out of California. And they respond to that when they respond, and then once he gets that he then has to go to the Madrid embassy to get it approved there.
“So, there was never a problem, it was just more that you can imagine the state of play right now in America is a bit chaotic and just going through all those government hoops is what was just taking some time.
“But he now has everything that he needs.”