AUSTIN, Texas – Fernando Alonso revealed ahead of this weekend’s United States Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas that he is committed to returning to the Indianapolis 500, but that it will not take place in 2018.
The 36-year-old Spaniard confirmed his intentions Thursday after it was announced he reached an agreement to return to McLaren in Formula One next season. The team previously announced it was switching from Honda to Renault engines for 2018, casting doubt on whether Alonso would be able to make another Indy 500 attempt with Honda team Andretti Autosport if he remained with McLaren.
“Obviously now, with the new McLaren deal for next year, I can confirm that I will not be at the Indy 500 next year because there is Monaco Grand Prix on the same weekend and priority next year will be to perform well in Formula One,” Alonso said.
“But at the same time, I can confirm that I will be in the Indy 500 in the future. I don’t if it will be 2019 or 2020 or whenever, but it’s a race that I definitely will experience again.”
The motorsports world shook when Alonso revealed he would bypass the Monaco Grand Prix – F1’s premier event on the streets of Monte Carlo, a race he has won twice – in favor of the Verizon IndyCar Series’ crown jewel on the same May day at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It is the two-time F1 champion’s desire to become the only driver besides Graham Hill to achieve the mythical motorsports triple crown of winning the Monaco Grand Prix, Indianapolis 500 and 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The Indy 500 deal this year was assisted by McLaren, which stepped back into the Brickyard for the first time since 1979 with partnership from Andretti Autosport and support from Honda.
Alonso was an immediate hit with fans and media at Indianapolis, drawing added focus on “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” in the process. And Alonso didn’t disappoint, leading 27 laps before suffering an engine failure with 21 laps to go while competing for the win. He was named Sunoco Rookie of the Year for the performance.
Looking back at the event that took place five months ago, Alonso embraced the situation and carries many fond memories.
“It’s difficult to pick up one moment of that month,” he said. “If I had to choose one, it would be Sunday (race day): the drivers’ presentation, the drivers’ parade 10 minutes before the race. That was an amazing moment: 250,000-300,000 people in one venue was very impressive, the atmosphere there.
“But I think the whole months was very unique and opened the eyes a little bit of what I said before. Formula One is just one more series in motorsport, probably the most mediatic one.
“It’s a fantastic show and we all are very proud to be Formula One drivers and we dream from a very early age to become Formula One drivers. But there are other motorsport series that are as good as that and you know I’m a fan of this one, so that was a good discovery for me.”
A veteran of Formula One since 2001, Alonso remains focused on reversing the fortunes of the iconic McLaren team there – for now.
“We have enough to do for next year, to put McLaren again at the top of the grid and that’s the first priority right now,” said Alonso.
“I think on my personal side there are no other priorities than Formula One at the moment, but with a door open for different series and different goals that I always believed that you need to win in other series if you want to be a more complete driver, a better driver, because motorsport is not only Formula One.
“Even if (Formula One is) still the priority, we will see what the future brings.”