London - McLaren's
former two-time world champion Fernando Alonso will miss next month's
Formula One Monaco Grand Prix to race for them in the Indianapolis 500,
the British-based team said on Wednesday.
The two showpiece races take place on May 28 and McLaren - whose
fortunes have plummeted in F1 - "will enter a single car in the
101st Indianapolis 500," said a team statement.
McLaren did not say who will take the Spaniard's place for the Monaco race, one of the highlights of the grand prix calendar.
However, his absence sparked speculation that his position could be
filled in Monte Carlo by Britain's Jenson Button, another ex-Formula One
world champion, who remains under contract in an ambassadorial role
Alonso will race in a Honda-powered Andretti car branded as a McLaren
for the Indy 500, one of US motorsport's most prestigious races.
The 2005 and 2006 F1 champion said he wanted to compete in the Indy
500 to have a chance of fulfilling a career ambition of completing
motorsport's "Triple Crown" in winning the Monaco Grand Prix, the Indy
500 and the Le Mans 24 Hours.
The only driver to achieve the feat was the late Graham Hill, with
the British driver, like Alonso, a double F1 One world champion.
"I realise I'll be on a steep learning curve, but I'll be flying to
Indianapolis from Barcelona immediately after the Spanish Grand Prix,"
"I've won the Monaco Grand Prix twice, and it's one of my ambitions
to win the Triple Crown. It's a tough challenge, but I'm up for it.
"I don't know when I'm going to race at Le Mans, but one day I intend to. I'm only 35 and I've got plenty of time for that."
Alonso is now in the final
year of what has been a largely frustrating three-season deal with
McLaren, with his failure to finish last week's Chinese Grand Prix in
Shanghai the latest disappointing result.
He joined in the hope of winning a third world title, after two
triumphs with Renault, but his best results have been three fifth
places, with much of the blame attributed to the poor performance of the
However, Alonso insisted Monaco would be the only F1 race he would miss intentionally this season.
"Monaco will be the only 2017 Grand Prix I'll be missing, and I'll be
back in the cockpit of the McLaren-Honda for the Canadian Grand Prix in
Montreal in early June," he said.
The Andretti team won the race last year, with rookie driver
Alexander Rossi the shock champion in the 100th running of the
Andretti chief Michael Andretti, a former IndyCar champion who raced
in F1 for McLaren, said Alonso was capable of repeating Rossi's
"Fernando’s lack of experience on super-speedways is not of concern to me," said Andretti.
"I do believe that the Indianapolis 500 is one of the best places for
a rookie to start because there is the opportunity for so much practice
time on the track - and, as we have demonstrated, it can be won by a
rookie," added the son of three-time IndyCar champion and 1978 F1
champion Mario Andretti.
Meanwhile, McLaren boss Zak Brown, who will also be in Indianapolis
instead of Monaco, said: "Could Fernando win this year's Indy 500? Well,
I wouldn't be so silly as to make any such rash prediction, but I
expect him to be in the mix."
"Put it this way, the team he'll be racing for won the race last
year, using the same Honda engine, and he's the best racing driver in
the world. That's quite a compelling combination."
McLaren won the Indianapolis 500 with their own car in 1974 and 1976,
but IndyCar is now a 'spec' formula where all teams use the same basic
car, although different engine manufacturers are allowed to design their
own aerodynamic bodykits.