Bob Fernley, a former team principal in Formula One, was announced as president of McLaren IndyCar on Thursday to oversee the legendary race team’s return to the 103rd Indianapolis 500 in 2019.
McLaren Racing said Fernley will lead the team's Indy 500 entry when Fernando Alonso makes his return, while evaluating the feasibility of longer-term McLaren involvement in the IndyCar Series. Fernley will report to Zak Brown, CEO of McLaren Racing.
Alonso, the two-time F1 champion, made a highly publicized Indianapolis 500 debut in 2017, when he qualified fifth and led 27 laps before a mechanical failure ended his race 21 laps from the finish. The popular Spaniard was named Sunoco Rookie of the Year for the effort.
Fernley was most recently deputy team principal at the Force India F1 team and previously focused on North American motorsports.
“Heading back to the Brickyard will be a very special experience for me," Fernley said in a news release. "I am proud to be leading this McLaren project and team. The 500 is a hell of a challenge and we have incredibly strong competitors to overcome if we’re to be successful. We will need to prepare well for the month of May and that work starts now.”
His appointment follows Brown’s announcement that McLaren Racing will run its INDYCAR program separately from its F1 activities. Fernley will build and lead a technical team entirely focused on the 2019 Indy 500.
“Bob is a fantastic operator and someone I respect greatly," Brown said. "His experience and leadership will be essential for us on this project. He is particularly talented at putting effective teams together and extracting maximum performance with finite resources. The Indy 500 is no easy race and Bob’s is a key role, so I’m delighted he’s on board.”