After this year’s disastrous Indy 500, McLaren is coming back to prove that it can actually do this IndyCar thing, thank you very much... but with one caveat. It’s not rolling solo (by which, of course, we mean ‘partnering with Carlin and then pretending not to have actually done that’). McLaren will partner with current team Arrow SPM.
Things have definitely changed since the morale-crushing failure to qualify for the Indy 500, after which McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown stated that a full-time showing in the series wouldn’t be “likely.” I guess McLaren realized it didn’t have to do the whole racing thing alone to be successful.
McLaren is partnering with what’s currently known as Arrow Schmidt-Peterson Motorsports, the team founded by Sam Schmidt and Ric Peterson. And there are some huge changes coming for the team in the near future, beyond just the new Arrow McLaren Racing SP name.
If you currently watch IndyCar, you know SPM is a Honda-engined team. But given the fact that the whole McLaren-Honda relationship has failed worse than a middle school romance, SPM will be moving to Chevy engines next year, Motorsport reports. And McLaren is coming equipped with former racer Gil de Ferran as its sporting director.
Here’s more from McLaren’s statement:
The partnership will see the infrastructure of Arrow SPM underpin the team’s operations, while McLaren adds technical expertise, commercial experience and marketing strength to enable the new entity to perform at the highest competitive level and regularly challenge for wins and the series title.
I’m digging the confidence, tempered by the fact that McLaren definitely understands it’s not ready to stand on its own two feet yet.
Interestingly, the driver lineup at Arrow McLaren Racing SP looks like it’ll be in for a massive shakeup. Fan favorite James Hinchcliffe has been with SPM since 2015 and is contracted for one further year with the team—however, given the fact that Hinchcliffe has deep ties with Honda Canada, it seems unlikely that he’ll also be making the swap to Chevy. His teammate Marcus Ericsson is said to also be a likely sacrifice in the swap. Felipe Nasr and Nicholas Latifi have both been pegged by Motorsport as potential replacements.
And, yes. If Fernando Alonso is willing to give McLaren another shot, he’ll almost be guaranteed a seat for the 2020 Indy 500.
This is pretty huge news for both McLaren and IndyCar, two names that have had ties together for years. How things will pan out will remain to be seen, but it sounds damn promising overall.
Update Aug. 9, 2019 11 AM EST: According to Jenna Fryer, Zak Brown stated in a press conference that he does expect Hinchcliffe to race for Arrow McLaren Racing SP in 2020. More details will follow in the next few weeks. Misspellings have also been corrected.