McLaren CEO Zak Brown on Indy 500 debacle: We made so many mistakes

McLaren CEO Zak Brown says that he hopes to make another run at the Indianapolis 500 despite a disappointing Month of May in 2019.

McLaren CEO Zak Brown gave an open and frank interview during the first practice session for the Monaco Grand Prix, as he told Sky Sports about the problems surrounding McLaren’s failed Indy 500 program.

McLaren driver Fernando Alonso was one of three drivers to fail to qualify for Sunday’s Indianapolis 500.

The issues included painting the car the wrong color, failing to have a steering wheel on time among a whole comedy of errors. Brown admitted that the time at Indianapolis was “embarrassing” but wanted to explain how some of the scenarios came about.

“I thought long and hard about how much do I share with the world, but we were so far off, we made so many mistakes, we’ve got so many great fans and partners in the racing team and I felt it was important that people understood a little bit about what went on behind the scenes,” said Brown. “Things like the steering wheel, it wasn’t like we forgot a steering wheel. What happened there was we were going to make our own steering wheel. You can buy one off the shelf, but we decided we wanted to do our own. Maybe we got a bit fancy.

“We realized about two weeks out that we weren’t going to be done in time, so we had to go get a steering wheel, but they didn’t have any on the shelf. So, it’s not like we forgot a steering wheel, but it just didn’t go according to plan.

“We did a radical setup change overnight on Saturday. The guys hadn’t slept and get a calculation wrong (metric measurements to imperial), which normally is an unacceptable error. Ultimately, what you have there is that the guys hadn’t slept, so it’s easy forget what metric am I working in now. So, it was all small mistakes with big consequences, but it’s that lack of preparation and not being prepared that just had a snowball effect. And I think the cover-up is always worse than the crime, and I wasn’t going to cover it up, as embarrassing as it was.”

Alonso has never tried to hide his desire to win the Indy 500 and complete the fabled racing Triple Crown of the Monaco Grand Prix, Le Mans 24 Hours and Indy 500. After this second failed bid, the Spaniard was frustrated but remained the consummate professional, according to Brown.

“He was unbelievably professional,” said Brown. “Just like you saw externally, how he handled the media and the fans, that’s how he was inside the garage. We were all frustrated, but I think he knows, being the champion that he is, if he had done anything other than be laser focused on trying to continue to move forward, it would have gotten worse. He was great.

“He’s obviously hugely disappointed. We feel like we let him down. Fernando deserved to be in the race. I don’t think McLaren deserved to be in the race. It’s a bit of poetic justice that we put ourselves out even when we did get the car right, but Fernando was great.

“We all want to come back. We all know what racing’s like. Whether you have a crash or you lose a race, you dust yourself off, you get emotional but then you want to come back and do it again and prove to yourself that you can do it.”

McLaren could be forgiven for deciding to call it a day with the pursuit of an Indy 500 victory, but Brown says they want to go for a third try. Whether this would be with Alonso remains unclear.

“We want to go back. We’re ultimately 48 hours out of the disappointment. I stood up with the race team, all 850 people, told them exactly what happened, and they’re all racers. They said, ‘We’ve got to go back,’ and that’s how my shareholders feel, so we’re resilient. We were upset when it happened, but we’re racers.

“I think we’d like to go back with Fernando. I’ve spoken a lot to him since then, and we’ve had that conversation. He, like us, just wanted to decompress for a bit. Clearly, there’s lots of great teams (already) there, and Fernando wants to win it.

“I think he wants to win it with McLaren, and McLaren wants to win it with Fernando, so I wouldn’t rule it out. It’s a conversation we’ll be having with him later, and at the same time though, if one of the top teams who routinely win the race gave him a call, and I’m Fernando Alonso, you’d certainly consider it, wouldn’t you?”

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