McLaren Racing confirmed Friday morning that it will make a full-time return to the NTT IndyCar Series for the 2020 racing season. The Papaya Orange outfit will partner with current IndyCar team Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (Arrow SPM) to form a single racing entity called "Arrow McLaren Racing SP."
Furthermore, the soo-to-be defunct Arrow SPM will terminate its relationship with engine provider Honda and run Chevrolet Performance engines as the newly formed Arrow McLaren Racing SP. The official press release didn't specify a racing driver or crew lineup for 2020, much less mention if Fernando Alonso will be one of the talents to pilot the first full-time McLaren Indy entry since the '60s.
“I’m extremely proud of the team that Ric and I have built and that a legendary brand like McLaren Racing has decided to partner with us to form Arrow McLaren Racing SP to continue our march to the top of IndyCar," said Schmidt. "Arrow is a tremendous partner which has been integral to our growth as a team since 2015 and to the creation of this new partnership. The combined technical resources and commercial opportunities both McLaren and Arrow bring to the table provide a winning combination.”
As we expected, former racing driver and Indy 500 winner Gil de Ferran will lead the new IndyCar team, which according to McLaren will be a separate "McLaren Racing" entity from the Formula 1 team currently directed by McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown. It's also unclear if de Ferran will continue with his role of McLaren Sporting Director, which currently also oversees the F1 team's British operations.
“I’m absolutely delighted that we will expand our relationship with Arrow Electronics across both F1 and IndyCar, while renewing our long affinity with Chevrolet as our engine partner," said Brown. "McLaren and Chevrolet have a special history together in North America and it is fitting they are part of our full-time return to IndyCar."
The new partnership presents several roadblocks that will have to be ironed out between now and the beginning of the 2020 racing season, primarily because of the engine supplier change and the many commercial ramifications that entails. For starters, current driver James Hinchcliffe is an adored Honda poster boy, acting as a Honda spokesperson and TV personality in the United States and Canada. It'll be interesting to see if his allegiance to Honda will take him to a different team, or if a big-enough check from Arrow McLaren Racing SP and Chevrolet could motivate him to stay.
Let's not forget that the main reason why McLaren had to join forces with Chevrolet was because of its nasty divorce from Honda in Formula 1. The feud, which was furthered fueled by Fernando Alonso's ruthless criticism of Honda reliability, didn't allow McLaren to partner with Honda-powered Andretti Autosport once again, despite the American team having provided McLaren and Alonso with a competitive package at the 2017 Indy 500.
And we thought the IndyCar silly season had concluded with Alexander Rossi's contract renewal.