McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown is optimistic about the chances for his team to win this year’s Indianapolis 500, saying he believes each of Arrow McLaren SP’s three entries has a legitimate shot at winning this year’s race.
McLaren partnered with the established Schmidt Peterson Motorsports team this season, and the results have been promising so far.
The team’s young full-time drivers Pato O’Ward and Oliver Askew have been competing near the front of the field, with each driver earning a podium in the six races that have been run so far this season.
Joining the young drivers will be Formula 1 veteran Fernando Alonso, who will drive a third car fielded by AMSP for this race. Although is an experienced racer, Alonso has only competed in one IndyCar race previously, so the team has much less experience on the infamous oval than some of the others in the field.
The inexperienced drivers will have the full support of the McLaren Racing team, including dedicated personnel located in the McLaren Technology Center in Woking, England. The coordinated effort has led Brown to believe that any of his drivers could potentially have a drink of milk in victory lane this year.
“I think we do have three cars that should be capable of winning the race,” said Brown. “That being said, we got bit pretty hard last year. Let’s make sure we have good practice, good qualifying.
“We do have two rookies in addition to a guy who hasn’t done it a lot, as great as he is. I think we do need to kind of keep our head down. I think if we do the right things and everyone executes, we can have three cars there at the end. For that basis, it’s super exciting.”
Last year’s attempt at the Indy 500 ended before it even began for McLaren, with Alonso getting bumped out in qualifying. A repeat of that scenario is not possible this year since only 33 drivers are attempting to make the race, but that does not mean the team is taking a laid back approach to the race.
Now that McLaren has a full-time IndyCar team and has even more resources dedicated to success, and Alonso has had plenty of time this season to properly prepare for this race, the 39-year-old has a real chance of improving on his 24th place finish from 2017.
“Fernando, as we all know, is an immense talent,” said Brown. “I’ve not seen someone more prepared to go motor racing as far as how they go racing. I don’t have any concerns over Fernando’s ability to step in and get with the program.
“We feel like we’re definitely much more hands-on in this effort, which is great. I would say it’s a good, strong handful of fully dedicated [employees], 100% IndyCar, that have their own space at the MTC. Then they have a variety of tools and additional people they can pull on.
“I think the biggest lesson we learned is ‘don’t do what we did last year.’ There were a lot of mistakes that you make when you don’t qualify for a race. You’ve got to get it pretty wrong for a team like McLaren and a driver like Fernando Alonso to not make the show.”
All three drivers will get their first look at how they compare to the rest of the field today when the first practice session gets under way at 11:00 EDT. There will be practice sessions each day through qualifying day, which takes place August 16.
The 104th running of the Indianapolis 500 will be run the following Sunday, on August 23.