McLaren Could Enter IndyCar Full-Time in 2019

R&T has confirmed that McLaren representatives went to Indianapolis last week to meet with existing teams about partnering on a 2019 entry.

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McLaren could find itself on the Verizon IndyCar Series grid next season if one of the leading teams comes to terms with the British Formula 1 outfit.

RoadandTrack.com has confirmed representatives from McLaren Racing were in attendance during last weekend’s Indy Grand Prix held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to meet with prospective partner teams, and more talks are expected to take place after the Indy 500 in June.

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While competing at the 2017 Indy 500 with Fernando Alonso in a shared entry with Honda and Andretti Autosport, McLaren boss Zak Brown made numerous overtures to the team’s interest in adding a full-time IndyCar program to its F1 effort.

As the American explained more than once, the IndyCar expansion would only become a serious consideration after its F1 team restored its competitive form. A switch from Honda to Renault engines during the offseason has lifted McLaren’s fortunes in the opening rounds, but not to the point where it’s contending for wins.

Despite the progress left to make in F1, McLaren appears to be working from the assumption that its Grand Prix team will find itself in a place of strength by the end of 2018. It makes the IndyCar team meetings a fascinating proposition to consider as the natural assumption would place McLaren with Michael Andretti’s team.

Outside of IndyCar, Brown and Andretti are partners in the Australian Supercar series with Ryan Walkinshaw under the Walkinshaw Andretti United banner, and on the domestic front, Andretti Autosport supports Brown’s U.K.-based United Autosports team when it competes in IMSA’s WeatherTech SportsCar Championship series.

With two direct business ties between Brown and Andretti, not to mention the 2017 McLaren collaboration at Indy, all signs would point to a resumption of the relationship if both parties agree on an IndyCar deal for 2019.

But there’s a potential snag to consider that could point Brown and McLaren elsewhere in the IndyCar paddock. Andretti’s four-car team could expand to five full-time entries next year if its Indy Lights driver Colton Herta, and Herta’s sponsor/co-team owner George Steinbrenner IV, elevate his Andretti-Steinbrenner program to the big show.

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Joining on as Andretti’s sixth full-time entry could, knowing McLaren’s history and preference for the spotlight, be less than what it’s looking for. Andretti is known to be McLaren’s preference, but the moving parts with other entries could influence the outcome.

McLaren’s split with Honda in F1 is not considered a hindrance to a future working arrangement with the Japanese brand’s American arm at Honda Performance Development in California.

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