Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya was always the first choice to drive McLaren’s third car at next year’s Indianapolis 500, according to the squad’s CEO Zak Brown.
McLaren heads into its second full IndyCar season, in conjunction with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, having recruited ex-Ganassi racer Felix Rosenqvist to partner incumbent Pato O’Ward.
McLaren has now signed Montoya, 45, to partner the relatively inexperienced full-time duo for May’s iconic event.
Montoya has previous ties with McLaren, having raced for the Woking-based outfit in F1 in 2005 and 2006, but left for NASCAR mid-way through his sophomore season with the team.
Fernando Alonso partnered with McLaren in 2017, 2019 and 2020, initially as a one-car team and then as a third entry, but his commitments in Formula 1 for Alpine means he is no longer eligible.
“We’ve always been a Juan Pablo Montoya fan,” said Brown.
“I think everybody is, he’s probably one of the most naturally talented drivers we’ve ever seen. He obviously has a great history with McLaren. He has a tremendous amount of success at the Indianapolis 500 in the handful of races he’s done, having won it twice.
“He drove for me at United Autosports in Le Mans a couple of years ago, so I got a chance to work with him there.
“I’ve always been friends with him, so when we looked to put forward a third car, we’ve got two younger, less experienced drivers, so we wanted someone experienced with a big name that could win the race that had McLaren history, and there was only one of those guys, so it was very clear.
“I tried to get Juan Pablo to race for us in 2018, but he was under contract and he wasn’t allowed to race. It was our second attempt at getting him to compete with us at the Indy 500, but since he was out of contract, we were able to secure his services this time.”
The 105 running of the Indianapolis 500 is currently scheduled for May 30.