McLaren considering full IndyCar season after 'rude awakening' at Indy 500

HOCKENHEIM, Germany -- McLaren CEO Zak Brown says the chastening experience of this year's failed entry to the Indy 500 has prompted him to reassess the value of a full season of IndyCar.

After McLaren's humbling failure to qualify for the famous race in May, which followed a string of embarrassing errors made by the team, Brown said he was reluctant to commit to a full IndyCar season in 2020. Critics said McLaren had set themselves up for failure by approaching the 500-mile oval race as a one-off and without the close partnership it enjoyed in 2017, when Fernando Alonso entered in a McLaren-Andretti Autosport venture.

Having reflected on the mistakes, which he takes full responsibility for, Brown said he has had to change his mindset on how best to approach the company's next step.

"That's still very much a work in progress," Brown said ahead of this weekend's German Grand Prix. "We learned a lot on what not to do this year in Indy.

"That was a rude awakening. I made a lot of mistakes in how I put that together. The reasons we want to go to Indy remain. That doesn't change. I think when you have a failure you need to learn from it and grow.

"I think the easy thing is to not get back on the horse, but you can't do that in life. I think you've got to dust yourself off and get back on the horse. So that too is under active review.

"We would do it differently -- needless to say -- than we did it this year. And if we did it I'd be more inclined to look to do it on a full-time basis than a one-off.

"I think having tried that, that's a pretty tall order. Or certainly to go at it by yourself I think is too tall an order."

The inevitable question which follows any discussion of McLaren and a full season of IndyCar is who would lead such a project. Alonso stepped away from Formula One at the end of last season to focus on other ventures -- including the Indy 500.

His racing schedule has been freed up significantly now that he has claimed the 2018/19 World Endurance Championship title with Toyota. Alonso still remains Brown's top choice for whatever entry McLaren decides to pursue.

"I'd love to have him involved in an IndyCar program if we were to do it and he wants to do it," Brown said. "He's undecided on what he wants to do next year. I think this is the first time in 17 or 18 years he doesn't have a calendar filled with racing next year, so I think he needs to take the summer break to reconcile in his own mind what he wants to do. But if we were to go IndyCar racing and he wanted to do it, of course he would be top of our list.

"We don't want to shy away from spotlight [of having Alonso race]. I think Fernando brings a tremendous amount of focus but I think as McLaren so do we. So that doesn't really factor into our thinking of, 'Let's take a driver that doesn't come with as much pressure.'

"If we enter IndyCar it's going to be to win races, ether that's with Fernando or another driver. So I don't think it changes those dynamics."

When it was pointed out that Alonso is reluctant to commit to a full IndyCar season, Brown said: "He's told me he doesn't want to do a full season, but let's see what happens when he's at home for two weekends consecutively not driving a race car for the first time in 20 years! Personally I think he would enjoy IndyCar racing, but he's told me at this point he doesn't want to. ...

"He knows the commitment it would take. You've got to move to America, etc., and you all know Fernando's an all-in or an all-out guy, so I think it's more of a function of he's been racing for this long, does he want to take a bit of time off and figure out what he wants to do?"