Double Formula 1 world champion Fernando Alonso will compete in this year’s Indianapolis 500, missing the Monaco Grand Prix due to a date clash.
Following weeks of secret talks involving Honda, McLaren and Alonso, an agreement has been reached for the Spaniard to race in America while the Formula 1 paddock is in Monaco.
Alonso will race a McLaren entry run by the Honda-affiliated Andretti Autosport IndyCar team, headed by former McLaren F1 racer Michael Andretti.
“I’m immensely excited that I’ll be racing in this year’s Indy 500, with McLaren, Honda and Andretti Autosport,” said Alonso.
“The Indy 500 is one of the most famous races on the global motorsport calendar, rivalled only by the Le Mans 24 Hours and the Monaco Grand Prix, and it’s of course a regret of mine that I won’t be able to race at Monaco this year.
“But Monaco will be the only 2017 Grand Prix I’ll be missing, and I’ll be back in the cockpit of the McLaren-Honda MCL32 for the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal in early June.”
The shock decision by McLaren to allow its top driver to contest the Indianapolis 500 comes at a time when Alonso’s future is uncertain, as his contract expires at the end of this season.
It will be Alonso’s first attempt on IndyCar’s most famous race and his first experience of oval racing.
McLaren has twice won the Indy 500 as a team, in 1974 and 1976 with Johnny Rutherford, while a Penske-run McLaren chassis won in 1972 with Mark Donohue.
Executive director Zak Brown says Alonso’s entry “will be decked out in the papaya orange livery made famous by our founder Bruce McLaren, and in which Johnny Rutherford drove McLaren IndyCars to Indy 500 victory”.
The last time a driver raced in both Formula 1 and the Indianapolis 500 in the same season was in 1994, when Nigel Mansell made four Grand Prix starts with Williams alongside his full-time Indycar campaign with Newman/Haas Racing.
Exciting times for motorsport fans and best wishes to Fernando Alonso in his new IndyCar adventures at the Brickyard.