By Andy Young, C4F1 digital writer
Fernando Alonso and McLaren will compete in the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500 next year, as the Spaniard continues his bid to complete motorsport’s fabled Triple Crown.
Alonso is seeking to become only the second driver to win the Monaco Grand Prix, Le Mans 24 Hours and Indianapolis 500, following Graham Hill.
“I’ve made clear for some time my desire to achieve the Triple Crown,” the 37-year-old said after another disappointing qualifying session at the Brazilian Grand Prix, where he failed to make it out of Q1.
“I had an incredible experience at Indianapolis in 2017 and I knew in my heart of hearts I had to go back if the opportunity was there.”
Last year Alonso elected to miss the Monaco Grand Prix to contest the Indianapolis 500, where McLaren partnered with full-time IndyCar outfit Andretti Autosport.
During the iconic ‘month of May’ he managed to quickly adapt to oval racing, qualifying a strong P7 ahead of full-time drivers such as Tony Kanaan, Ryan Hunter-Reay and eventual 2017 champion Josef Newgarden.
In the race Alonso continued to raise eyebrows, leading a total of 27 laps before his Honda engine let go with 21 laps remaining.
With McLaren no longer partnering Honda in F1 following their unsuccessful reunion from 2015-17, it's not yet known whether the Japanese manufacturer or Chevrolet will power Alonso’s return to the Brickyard in 2019.
“McLaren has a long and fond relationship with the Indianapolis 500 and it’s a case of unfinished business for us with Fernando,” the team’s CEO Zak Brown said.
“No Indy 500 is a cakewalk, it’s a massive challenge. We have the utmost respect for the race and our competitors.”
There has been speculation whether Alonso would race the Indy 500 with McLaren since he announced in August that he would be retiring from F1 at the end of this season.
“I’m especially glad to be returning with McLaren. This was always my first choice if the team decided to do it, so I’m delighted they’ve decided to go ahead,” he said.
“It’s a tough race and we’ll be up against the best, so it will be a huge challenge.”
Alonso won’t the only 2018 F1 driver racing at the Brickyard, as Marcus Ericsson has joined the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports team for a full IndyCar season after being relegated to a reserve role at Sauber.