McLaren’s Indy 500 failure was even worse than it looked from the outside

Duncan Stephen
May 20 · 2 min read

Jenna Fryer’s incredible interview with McLaren CEO Zak Brown goes into excruciating detail about the team’s embarrassing failure to qualify for the Indianapolis 500. It looked bad from the outside. This inside story shows that it was so much worse than that.

There appear to have been astonishing logistical oversights at every stage. Zak Brown is right that, “Zak Brown should not be digging around for steering wheels.” The finger appears to be firmly pointed at Bob Fernley, the former Force India man who was hired to head up McLaren’s IndyCar effort.

That’s all one thing, but McLaren’s famous misplaced pride also got in their way:

McLaren purchased a car from technical partner Carlin, and though the car was orange when McLaren received it, it was not the proper McLaren “papaya orange.” It had to be repainted after the test, and that still had not been completed when Alonso crashed his McLaren-built car last Wednesday.

I get that branding is important (I guess), but surely there comes a point when the precise shade of orange takes less priority than actually having a car? McLaren really need to get a sense of perspective, and firing Bob Fernley isn’t going to solve all of their problems.

Thank you Fernando Alonso

While it’s easy sometimes to laugh at Fernando Alonso, I really admire his bravery of going straight out to qualify in a car with a totally new set-up that he’d never tried before, on this fearsome circuit of all places. It could have gone so badly wrong, but Alonso had his foot on the floor.

It’s not often you see someone straddling that fine line between bravery and disaster so precisely. That was a truly captivating piece of motorsport. Thank you Fernando Alonso.

Duncan Stephen

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User experience and digital consultant — https://duncanstephen.net/

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