McLaren-Honda stunned the racing world Wednesday when it announced Fernando Alonso will compete in the Indianapolis 500, instead of the Formula One Monaco Grand Prix. What’s more shocking, though, is what led Alonso and McLaren to enter the famed IndyCar race.
McLaren Technology Group CEO Zak Brown revealed Wednesday during a press conference the whole idea stemmed from an offhand joke he made to Alonso ahead of the Australian Grand Prix, ESPN reports.
“Then when Fernando and I were with (team principal) Eric (Boullier) and Honda in Australia it came up in conversation, one of the mornings, and Fernando brought it up and said, ‘Honda, you have an unbelievably great history at the speedway, I have a dream to win the triple crown and wanted to do Le Mans in the past and I’d love to do the Indy 500 with you,’ ” Brown told reporters. “There wasn’t a timeline on it but I thought: Ah, he might actually be serious about this!”
Brown might have jokingly mentioned the idea as a way to gauge Alonso’s interest, but his comments clearly resonated with the Spanish driver. For Alonso, whose contract expires after this season, the conversation in Melbourne, Australia, gave him his first potential plans for 2018.
“I was happy when Zak joined the team last year but I was even happier when Zak was telling me these plans for the future,” Alonso said, via ESPN. “But in a way I was thinking for 2018, as obviously it was only 55 days until the Indy 2017.”
Despite the tight timetable, McLaren secured Alonso a drive with Andretti Autosport for the 101st running of the race, something Brown reportedly attribute’s to the two-time world champion’s passion.
“Fernando’s desire to do it, and our desire to do it, and our desire to support him and do it together accelerated how quickly we were able to make this happen,” Brown said.
Given how quickly the team was able to get Alonso a spot in the 500, and Brown’s eagerness to return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans, we wouldn’t be surprised if the Spaniard attempts all three legs of the triple crown with McLaren.