McLaren Won’t Let Its Massive Indy 500 Failure Derail Its IndyCar Future

Fernando Alonso before being eliminated from the Indianapolis 500 in qualifying.
Fernando Alonso before being eliminated from the Indianapolis 500 in qualifying.
Photo: Darron Cummings (AP)

McLaren tried and failed, miserably, to run the Indianapolis 500 this year, from the wrong paint color causing the team to miss nearly two days of track time to mistakes in converting inches into the metric system. But that and its failure to qualify for the big race won’t derail its IndyCar plans—whatever those may be.


The company, which came to the race this year as a one-off along with semi-retired Formula One star Fernando Alonso, wanted to use the Indy 500 to show what a future McLaren IndyCar program could look like. The team’s been talking about one, but has yet to give any details or commitments.

That mission to prove itself ended in McLaren apologizing to Alonso for not bringing a good enough car, but Racer reports that McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown said the team will “come back fighting” in IndyCar—in an as-of-yet undefined manner, to the rest of us:

While Brown says serious mistakes were made that need rectifying, he says the setback will not deter McLaren from returning to IndyCar.

“All the reasons why we think McLaren should be at Indy remain,” Brown said. “When you’re in racing, you’re going to have highs and lows. That was obviously a very significant low, the lowest point in my 25 years of motor racing. I think you have to dust yourself off, learn by your mistakes, and come back fighting. That’s what we intend to do.

“I think in racing, you lose races. This was a very high-profile loss, but we’re racers. You take risks. Hopefully you get it right more often than you get it wrong. [...]”

Racer reports that Brown used the line “when we go back” multiple times, and that it wouldn’t be fair to blame technical partner Carlin for its failure to qualify for the race. Brown said it was “clear that McLaren didn’t qualify because of McLaren issues,” which is about the best summary a person could make.

“Would it have been different with a different partner?” Racer quoted Brown as saying. “I think given the mistakes that we made, I’m not sure anyone would have got us through those other than ourselves.”

It sounds like McLaren will have a chance to get itself through this problem, if it keeps on its current track to pursue an IndyCar program. The rest of us will just have to wait and see what that program will actually be.