Zak Brown explains backtrack on James Hinchcliffe keeping his drive
McLaren CEO Zak Brown has moved to explain the decision to backtrack on James Hinchcliffe remaining in the driver line-up for the 2020 NTT IndyCar season.
Hinchcliffe had initially looked set to keep his place in the team despite having a personal contract Honda and the Arrow McLaren SP team moving to Chevrolet engines.
However, it was recently announced Patricio O'Ward and 2019 Indy Lights champion Oliver Askew would be driving for the 2020 campaign, leaving Hinchcliffe on the sidelines.
The decision has led to a backlash towards the team from fans of the popular Canadian driver.
"I’m well aware of the lack of popularity of the decision by James’ fanbase," said Brown "Totally get it. I think if look through some of the comments, we commented he was going to be in the car in 2020, and at the time we made those comments, he was going to be in the car in 2020."
Brown further commented the decision was about business and not one easily undertaken, however, the opportunity to sign two young drivers with what he described as 'superstar potential' changed the team's future outlook.
"In business, in racing, as you guys all know, things change," Brown added. "Business environments change. There’s lots of stakeholders involved. And when Pato O’Ward came on the market, because we didn’t know what Red Bull were going to do with him, and we tend to like drivers that Red Bull drops, because we think they’re really good.
"We decided to consult with all the stakeholders, take all the long-range view on what we thought was best for the team, and so to get Pato and Oliver, two drivers that we think have superstar potential, we thought that was a tough decision but the right decision for the team.
In light of the decision, it was agreed Hinchcliffe would continue to remain with the team and be paid as if he were in the car as he looked for potential opportunities elsewhere on the IndyCar grid.
"While we’re taking James out of the seat, we’re honouring the balance of his contract, IE we’re going to continue to pay him.
"Obviously race car drivers like to race, so I understand his disappointment, and hope, there’s lots of sponsors out there, he’s hugely popular, he’s been backed by Honda for some time, so hopefully between Honda and teams that have voiced some interest and sponsors that he will be on the grid.
"We certainly hope to race him, but it was a decision based on what we thought was best for our race team long-term."