Team co-owner Sam Schmidt says that he expects Arrow McLaren SP-Chevrolet to enter a third car for next year's Indianapolis 500, with two-time Formula 1 world champion Fernando Alonso a possibility.
After starring and leading on his Indy 500 debut in 2017, when McLaren utilized an Andretti Autosport entry as a marketing platform, Alonso was victim of McLaren’s disastrous attempt to ‘go it alone’ this year. The 32-time Grand Prix winner failed to qualify, after a series of mechanical and setup mishaps.
Meanwhile Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, as it was known, overcame the setback caused by James Hinchcliffe’s shunt in practice to see the Canadian star rise from 32nd on the grid to finish 11th and fulltime teammate Marcus Ericsson qualified 13th and finished outside the top 20 only because of a spin in pitlane while running eighth. Series veteran Oriol Servia, driving a third Arrow SPM car entered by Team Stange Racing started 19th and finished 22nd after an early setback.
Both Hinchcliffe and Ericsson have been replaced for 2020 by the 2018 and ’19 Indy Lights champions, Patricio O’Ward and Oliver Askew. Former Formula 1 driver and IndyCar sophomore Ericsson will drive for Chip Ganassi Racing-Honda alongside Scott Dixon and Felix Rosenqvist, but fan favorite Hinchcliffe’s late discovery that he had been ditched has left him currently seeking a ride.
Schmidt said that the deal with McLaren, announced in August, included the UK team’s IndyCar equipment and that he intends to again enter an extra car for the 104th running of the Indy 500. The third driver’s identity has not been settled, but Alonso remains an ambassador for the McLaren brand and it is assumed he is a shoo-in for the ride
“We absolutely have had a history of 12 years of running a third car at Indy,” said Schmidt, “and still plan to do that and Fernando remains an option but nothing's confirmed.
“In the deal came all the McLaren equipment, which means we have plenty of equipment and we have historically always run a third just because of our commercial partner demand and we expect to do that again this year.”
James Hinchcliffe, Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda
Photo by: Phillip Abbott / Motorsport Images
De Ferran: Team format still “developing”
Gil de Ferran, sporting director at McLaren, said the partnership with the former Arrow SPM is still in the development process,.
The two-time Indy car champion and 2003 Indy 500 winner said: “We have been working together with Taylor [Kiel, team manager] and all the guys at SPM, including all the engineering and operational staff, to try to understand where the opportunities are and where I think we can be most impactful, most effective and really developing a plan and an organization.
“And as you can imagine, I'm not ready to discuss details, operational details of how these things are developing, but at the end of the day that's the whole idea – How do we bring value to the partnership from a technical and an operational basis? These guys already do a great job, they know a lot of stuff that we don't know, they understand their operation really well.
“We know where our knowledge gaps are and what we need to do. So we have been working together developing a structure together with SPM, getting aligned on the priorities and timeline. And what I'm able to report is actually this journey is also going extremely well.
“A whole bunch of [Arrow SPM] guys went to Mexico, you know, we have had several visits where many of our guys went to Indianapolis, we had several long conversations and meetings and so on and so forth.
“The opposite has also happened, where a lot of guys went to the MTC [McLaren Technology Center]. So it's a journey that takes a lot of conversation and a lot of integration and we walk on this journey together.”