The McLaren Racing team will make its full-time return to IndyCar competition next season in a partnership with Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports under the Arrow McLaren Racing SP banner.
The two-car program, utilizing the current Arrow SPM staff and a new group of McLaren personnel assembled specifically for the IndyCar project, will debut in 2020 using Chevrolet engines. Drivers have not been announced, leaving the future of James Hinchcliffe and Marcus Ericsson at Arrow McLaren SP in question.
Of interest, Arrow SPM’s existing commitment to field a car for Robert Wickens, who was injured in one of its entries at Pocono in August of 2018, will be honored when the Canadian star is able to resume his IndyCar career, if he chooses to do so with the reconfigured team. (AMRSP has since announced Wickens will have a seat when he’s ready…PK)
Indy 500 winner and former IndyCar entrant Gil de Ferran, who serves as McLaren’s sporting director, will become McLaren’s dedicated IndyCar program leader, working alongside Arrow SPM president Jon Flack and general manager Taylor Kiel.
McLaren’s partnership with Arrow SPM co-owners Sam Schmidt and Ric Peterson does not involve purchasing the team outright or acquiring the individual ownership stakes held by Schmidt or Peterson.
“IndyCar has been part of McLaren since our early years of racing, and the series today provides not only a commercial platform to continue to grow our brand in North America, but competition with some of the best teams in international motorsport,” said McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown.
“This team provides McLaren with the right synergy as a strategic partner for our return to the sport. We believe together we can help each other achieve our mutual ambitions. Sam Schmidt and Ric Peterson have built a solid foundation, and we look forward to working together to take the team to the next level.”
For Schmidt, the relationship with McLaren, which brings significant resources to the table, has the potential to make Arrow McLaren SP a regular contender for podiums and wins.
“I’m extremely proud of the team that Ric and I have built and that a legendary brand like McLaren Racing has decided to partner with us to form Arrow McLaren Racing SP to continue our march to the top of IndyCar,” he said.
“Arrow is a tremendous partner which has been integral to our growth as a team since 2015, and to the creation of this new partnership. The combined technical resources and commercial opportunities both McLaren and Arrow bring to the table provide a winning combination.”
Peterson, who joined forces with Schmidt in 2013, says the new relationship with McLaren brings renewed optimism for a team with aspirations of fighting Andretti Autosport, Chip Ganassi, and Team Penske for future championships.
“I’m really excited that we could pull together our long-term partner Arrow and forge a new partnership with McLaren to become a unified force,” he said. “I’m equally thrilled that Sam and I are able to continue on in our long-standing relationship together and maintain our ownership position in the company. I can’t wait to see what the future holds.”
Unifying Arrow Electronics’ primary involvements in racing – McLaren in Formula 1 and Arrow SPM in IndyCar – under one roof is another major accomplishment in the formation of Arrow McLaren SP.
“Advancement in automotive technology continues to be a powerful growth driver for our business,” said Arrow CEO Mike Long. “We are delighted to see our partners join forces in a way that provides an even broader platform and showcase for Arrow’s engineering and innovation.”
Along with Arrow, Brown is pleased to develop an increased relationship with Chevrolet.
“I’m absolutely delighted that we will expand our relationship with Arrow Electronics across both F1 and IndyCar, while renewing our long affinity with Chevrolet as our engine partner,” he said. “McLaren and Chevrolet have a special history together in North America, and it is fitting they are part of our full-time return to IndyCar.
“We come to IndyCar in full respect of the sport, our competitors, the fans and the task ahead. At our core, we at McLaren are racers, and where there’s competition that puts us to the test, we will race. The NTT IndyCar Series provides such a challenge.”
With a pair of Dallara DW12s purchased for the 2019 Indy 500, and other key support equipment in hand, McLaren is expected to combine its hardware with Arrow SPM’s, giving the organization considerable depth to draw from in the final years of the current chassis and engine formula.
The balance of power among IndyCar’s engine suppliers will shift with Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ departure from Honda and welcome by Chevrolet in the offseason as the rebadged Arrow McLaren SP.
Since the 2017 NTT IndyCar season, Team Penske has delivered every win for Chevy – 23 in total, including two Indianapolis 500s – while its other partner teams have struggled to find Victory Lane.
With the acquisition of a veteran Honda-powered outfit in Arrow SPM, which has finished as high as third in the championship for the Japanese brand, Chevy has the potential to strengthen its competitive efforts when Arrow McLaren SP enters the field.
“Chevrolet and McLaren have a storied history of racing together, going back to the mid-1960s,” said Jim Campbell, Chevy’s VP of performance and motorsports. “We are looking forward to partnering with the entire Arrow McLaren Racing SP team as we prepare for the 2020 IndyCar season.”
For McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown, the partnership with Chevy was years in the making.
“They made it very clear a couple years ago when we were in Detroit,” he told RACER. “Jim Campbell, Mark Reuss, Mark Kent, when we told them of all our desire to get into IndyCar, they made it real clear: If McLaren’s coming, let us know, we’d love to partner with McLaren. And they were outstanding at Indianapolis this year. I think they’re a great company and bunch of racers.”
With the door closed to Honda due an unseemly split with McLaren in Formula 1, the welcome from Chevrolet was important for Arrow McLaren SP. Factoring in the potential to become a significant player in the Bowtie’s IndyCar stable, Team Penske could have help in delivering future manufacturers’ championships for the brand.
“When you go down the win column, Penske puts the majority of the Chevy wins on the board,” Brown said. “And so, not wanting to speak on behalf of Chevy, clearly the more competitive teams they have, the better off they are. The NTT IndyCar Series is such a competitive series that it seems to ebb and flow. And sometimes one [brand] is stronger at Indy than another, one’s stronger on road courses than another. Their commitment is strong.
“It’s great to be in the same equipment as Roger Penske, because you know Roger’s always going to make sure he’s got the best equipment, or pushing to have the best equipment. So, I think you’re in safe hands when you have the same power in the back of your car that Roger Penske has.
“Without the support they’ve given us, this deal wouldn’t have come together. So between Arrow and Chevy, those two need a big shout-out for this marriage coming together.”
Drivers for the twin-turbo V6-powered Arrow McLaren SP entries have not been nominated by team.
Hinchcliffe, now in his fifth year with the Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports team, is currently under contract with the team through the end of the 2020 season. He has become the poster boy for Honda in his native Canada and has also appeared on TV commercials for Honda products in the U.S.
However, the 32-year-old veteran – who scored three IndyCar wins with Andretti Autosport when Michael Andretti‘s squad was Chevrolet-powered – tweeted out the following message, suggesting he will remain with Arrow McLaren Racing SP in 2020.
“It’s an exciting day for all of us with Arrow McLaren SP, and the culmination of a lot of hard work put in by all. My love for motorsports started on those weekends watching F1 races with my dad and McLaren was a huge part of that. To be able to drive for that name is a dream come true.
“Thank you to Arrow, Petro Canada Lubricants and all of our partners that put us in this position.
“It is rather unfortunate what this means for our relationship with Honda. They are another company that has done so much for me and when the time is right a discussion to what that means for my partnership with them and Honda Canada will need to occur but that is secondary right now to this exciting news. I’ve worked with General Motors in the past and look forward to rekindling that relationship in 2020.”
Schmidt told Motorsport.com that retaining Hinchcliffe is also the intention of Arrow McLaren Racing SP-Chevrolet, despite rival Honda teams showing willingness to expand in order to accommodate the driver.
“As far as we’re concerned, we have another year on James’ contract and we intend on fulfilling that,” he said. “Today’s announcement was obviously about McLaren, Chevrolet, Arrow and ourselves, and we wanted to get that out there for the sake of the commercial deals so we can start working on joint deals for next year. Then we figured we’d deal with driver announcements in the coming weeks.
“As I think we’ve talked about before, I’m never eager to start a season with two rookie drivers. For one thing, you want the baseline of someone fast with experience such as James, and I think in this particular case, we need as much continuity as possible for 2020. We’re changing engine manufacturers and there will also be a new dynamic with personnel involved from McLaren who need integrating, so I don’t want to change anything that we don’t have to.
“We don’t have anything to do with James’ deals with American Honda or Honda Canada – that was all done directly so I don’t know what those terms are or what they entail. We as a team have a contract with James through 2020, and what he has in terms of additional obligations beyond that, I don’t know.
“The bottom line is that we love Hinch and our partners love Hinch, and we want to fulfill our obligations there. It’s a shame that if he wants to stay with us that he can’t fulfill his other obligations, but that’s nothing that we can control because the positives of the McLaren deal far outweigh any negatives.”
Asked if Hinchcliffe were to choose to walk away from the contract whether he could do so without financial retribution, Schmidt responded: “We haven’t anticipated that he would want to make a change so we haven’t even discussed any of that. It hasn’t been a point of discussion yet.”
The team’s second driver this year has been ex-Formula 1 driver Marcus Ericsson, who has shown spasmodic promise, particularly on race days, and finished runner-up in the second Detroit race. Schmidt says the 28-year-old Swede remains “in the mix” for that second seat.
“Honestly, we told everyone that we were holding off on any decisions until we got past today’s announcement,” said Schmidt, “and then we would see what our options are. I would say we have more recognition with the McLaren association, because if they so choose, they can offer benefits that we couldn’t do before.
So hopefully this deal opens up more options.
“Marcus is still in the mix and there’s definitely been signs that he could be really, really good next year. Driving through the field at St. Pete and COTA and a few other places, he’s looked rather impressive. For some reason we haven’t had the consistency there that we needed, but he certainly isn’t out of the picture.”
Two favorites for being part of a revised driver line-up at Arrow McLaren Racing SP include IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Prototype champion Felipe Nasr who tested with the team two weeks ago, and Nicholas Latifi – son of McLaren investor Michael Latifi – who is currently second in the Formula 2 championship, racing for DAMS.