2019 IndyCar Review: Fernando Alonso and the Indianapolis 500 disaster
The 2019 NTT IndyCar Series witnessed a stunning year of highs and lows for everyone involved over the course of 17 races, Motorsport Week reflects on some of the key moments which encapsulated the gripping season...
At the first attempt of racing at the world-famous Indianapolis 500 in 2017, Double Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso made his first appearance at the Brickyard in order to become the second person in history to win Motorsport's unofficial 'Triple Crown' after the great Graham Hill.
McLaren originally teamed up with the emerging powerhouse of Andretti Autosport and it was a stunning debut from the Spaniard, qualifying fifth and running with the leaders for the majority of the race to boot, even leading 27 of the 200 laps. However, with just 21 laps to go in ironic fashion his Honda engine failed.
Two years later McLaren attempted to make a return to the Speedway on their own with the help of the British-based Carlin outfit, which also races in the series. It all appeared to be going smoothly in practice until Alonso made a mistake in Turn 3 and crashed his primary car.
After losing a whole afternoon's worth of running because of rain and then further track time the following day as the car took longer to prepare than expected, it was a race against time to prepare for qualifying.
On the first day of qualifying, it was immensely tight. It looked as if the Spaniard scraped into the automatic 30 places, but would be forced into the last row shootout on Bump Day by Pippa Mann by just a mere 0.020mph.
Having done some asking around overnight, it was hinted that McLaren had been handed a setup sheet from a rival team in order to facilitate their bid to get into the race. However, it was not to be.
As Kyle Kaiser crossed the line to secure the final spot on the grid, his Juncos Racing team erupted in sheer jubilation at the achievement of making it into the Indy 500. Alonso begrudgingly made his post-session interviews short and swiftly left the circuit to ponder the shambles of what the previous few days had entailed.
In the fallout of the failed project, McLaren CEO Zak Brown revealed a lengthy catalogue of errors which resulted in their failure, which are briefly as follows:
- Brown had to personally acquire a steering wheel from Cosworth after failing to make their own in time.
- The Carlin prepared car was painted the wrong shade of orange and spent a month in the garage just 30mins from the Speedway.
- Electrical issues which caused a mechanic to be removed from the team.
- In qualifying, a tyre puncture was not detected due to incorrect tyre sensors fitted.
- Acquired new setup for Sunday's shootout, but were put on the car in wrong units of measure.
- Incorrect gear ratio setup which left the car 1.5mph short.
After the litany of errors, Bob Fernley swiftly lost his position as team president and the future of McLaren's time at Indianapolis was once again under the microscope. However, McLaren have since gone into partnership with the Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports outfit to create Arrow McLaren Racing SP going forward.
Alonso has also reiterated he wishes to pursue his continued dream of succeeding at Indianapolis and securing the triple crown. But will it be with McLaren in 2020? Time will tell.