McLaren have all but confirmed that the decision to permit Fernando Alonso to run at this year’s Indy 500 is part of the plan to get him to re-sign with the team.
It was announced earlier this week that Alonso will skip May’s Monaco Grand Prix in order to bid for the 101st Indianapolis 500 title.
It is an unusual move allowing a driver to step away from the car but there is method to McLaren’s thinking.
Asked if it was part of the plan to get Alonso to re-sign with the team for 2018, racing director Eric Boullier told Motorsport.com: “Why not, you know?
“Everybody has got his own tricks when you have to negotiate about a contract.”
In fact Boullier reckons in general Alonso’s Indy drive, coupled with Jenson Button’s one-off comeback at the Monaco GP, all plays into the bigger picture.
“It is a bigger picture than this,” he said.
“First I have got Jenson in the car, so I have another World Champion who can extract the best out of this car.
“We have Stoffel [Vandoorne] who we believe has one of the greatest potentials and will be also there.
“He has won GP2 in Monaco, so he knows how to race there, and then it is not a missed opportunity. In the bigger picture it is more rewarding for McLaren-Honda.
“We have a strong relationship and partnership with Honda. We want to show that we can be competitive. It is part of the legacy of the past that McLaren was racing and winning in Indy 500.
“This is our best market as well – the first market in terms of commercial and automotive side. So there are a lot of positive boxes to tick in this project, part of building a longer term relationship with Honda and Alonso.”