Photo: McLaren

Alonso Rules Out 2019 IndyCar Campaign, Still Targeting Indy 500

By Joey Barnes, Editor-in-Chief

AUSTIN, Texas – Fernando Alonso will not be participating in the full Verizon IndyCar Series schedule in 2019. However, he is still pursuing a return to the series’ iconic crown jewel race, the Indianapolis 500.

The 37-year-old Spaniard shared the confirmation following Formula One qualifying for the United States Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas.

“In the summertime I was thinking about it, but it was always linked with the team and McLaren. We talked a lot at the beginning of the year what were the plans were for F1,” Alonso said.

“I always tried to share my thoughts with the team. Then eventually it came into my mind that it was the time now to stop Formula One, so they were the first ones to know. At least they had time to make whatever plans they were thinking for the future.

“Then it was the same with IndyCar. I had it in my mind that maybe I could do IndyCar or the Indy 500 or something to plan for next year. They were doing similar observations and thoughts about the future of the team, so we were talking and linked all the time.”

Global interest picked up after he revealed in August his intention to leave Formula One at the end of the 2018 campaign, with many wondering if there would be a full commitment to chase the Astor Cup Trophy in North America’s premier open wheel championship. Although he even tested an Indy car prepared by Andretti Autosport at Barber Motorsports Park last month, the pieces simply didn’t fall into place.

The biggest reason for Alonso comes after a grueling 21-race schedule in Formula One, which is added to by current commitments to run the second half of the FIA World Endurance Championship with Toyota Gazoo Racing – the same team Alonso captured the 24 Hours of Le Mans with in June.

“Eventually, one day, in my case, I thought it was too demanding next year,” he said. “I don’t know about in the future, but next year the commitment of the 17 races, it was too much. That dedication and that amount of work that you need to put into that series to be competitive, starting from zero, I felt it was too much and I shared that with the team.”

The announcement comes a day after McLaren CEO Zak Brown admitted his team were “simply not ready” to commit to a full-time effort in IndyCar next year, but are still hoping to be involved for a possible one-off at the Indianapolis 500. Alonso insisted the two decisions “were made independently.”

In May 2017, Alonso traded the scenic Monaco Grand Prix for the Brickyard and a shot at the Indianapolis 500. The opportunity came in a collaborated effort from McLaren and Andretti Autosport, which saw him pilot the No. 29 McLaren-Honda-Andretti Honda.

Ultimately, he qualified fifth and led 27 laps before a mechanical failure brought retirement just 21 laps from the finish and a heartbreaking 24th-place result. Even still, the overall performance from the month of May festivities blended with performance in the race was enough to warrant top rookie honors in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”

With victories at both Monaco and Le Mans, Alonso only needs an Indy 500 victory to join the legendary Graham Hill as the only drivers to complete the famed Triple Crown.

For that reason alone, Alonso adamant about a return to the 2.5-mile superspeedway next year for the 103rd edition of the Indy 500 of is “a possibility.”

“I would love to do it, to be honest,” he said. “It’s a race that was magic last year and it still has the biggest appeal for me, especially now after winning Le Mans.

“It’s only one step away from the Triple Crown and I would love to do it. I don’t know if it’s going to be next year or in the future but it is part of the project of next year’s calendar.”

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Joey Barnes is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Motorsports Tribune. He has covered auto racing since 2013 that has spanned from Formula 1 to NASCAR, with coverage on IndyCar. Additionally, his work has appeared on Racer, IndyCar.com and Autoweek magazine. In 2017, he was recognized with an award in Spot News Writing by the National Motorsports Press Association.