Another name has been added to the field for the Indianapolis 500. Not just any name though.
Two-time Formula One World Champion Fernando Alonso will drive a sixth car for Andretti Autosport in the 101st Running of the Indy 500 next month. McLaren announced today that Alonso would drive for Michael Andretti’s team, which also uses Honda power. He will join full-time drivers Marco Andretti, Takuma Sato, and Indy 500 winners Ryan Hunter-Reay and Alexander Rossi. The fifth Andretti driver will be Rookie Jack Harvey. It was announced earlier today that Harvey’s car will be a partnership with Michael Shank Racing.
“I’m immensely excited that I’ll be racing in this year’s Indy 500 with McLaren, Honda and Andretti Autosport,” the 35-year old Alonso said. “The Indy 500 is one of the most famous races on the global motorsport calendar, rivaled only by the Le Mans 24 Hours and the Monaco Grand Prix.”
In 275 career Formula One starts, Alonso has 32 wins and 97 podium finishes. In addition to his two titles, he finished runner-up three times. He becomes just the ninth driver to enter the Indy 500 with a World Championship to his name.
While Alonso has never raced an IndyCar or driven on a superspeedway, he knows that he will have time. Rossi, his Andretti teammate, figured it out last year as a Rookie, ultimately winning the Greatest Spectacle in Racing. “I’m confident that I’ll get to grips with it fast,” he said. “I’ve watched a lot of Indy car action on TV and online, and it’s clear that great precision is required to race in close proximity with other cars on the far side of 220 mph. I realize I’ll be on a steep learning curve, but I’ll be flying to Indianapolis from Barcelona immediately after the Spanish Grand Prix, practicing our McLaren/Andretti car at Indy from May 15 onward, hopefully clocking up a large number of miles every day.”
Alonso also knows he has the best of everything, with Andretti and Honda on the famed 2.5 mile oval. “I know how good the Andretti Autosport guys are. I’ll be proud to race with them and I intend to mine their knowledge and expertise for as much info as I possibly can.” Alonso said that he plans to be at the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama next weekend, watching to see how the team works together during a race.
McLaren has plenty of history in the Indy 500. Mark Donohue won the race in 1972 with McLaren, and Johnny Rutherford won two more with them in 1974 and 1976. Michael raced with the F1 McLaren team in 1993 with Ayrton Senna.
The Triple Crown (Monaco, Indy 500, Le Mans) is the motivation for Alonso. The only person in the history of motorsport to achieve this is Graham Hill. Alonso will obviously miss the Monaco Grand Prix this year, but he has already won it twice. The team will utilize the same papaya orange McLaren colors for the livery on Alonso’s car next month.
Plenty of IndyCar drivers were excited about the addition of Alonso to the field.
It took many people to get a deal like this done. From Alonso and Andretti, to Zak Brown, McLaren, and Honda. A large part of it should also be credited to Stefan Wilson. That is because he told Mark Miles (President & CEO of Hulman & Company) that he would give up his seat to accommodate the deal for Alonso. Without Stefan and his sponsors making that sacrifice, there wouldn’t have been a Honda engine for Alonso. Wilson was told that he and his program would be rewarded by IMS in 2018. Hopefully, another team out there will find a way to get Stefan entered into the race this year.
With today’s announcement, there are now 30 confirmed drivers for the race. Honda has 18 engines already assigned, which is the maximum they will do. Chevrolet currently has the other 12 engines designated, with one or two more for Juncos Racing, who has yet to announce their driver(s) for next month. If they enter two cars, that would put the field at 32 entries. If Lazier enters as the 33rd, they would again be with Chevrolet.
Practice for the 101st Running of the Indianapolis 500 begins on May 15.