Zak Brown has revealed that the idea of Fernando Alonso racing in Indy 500 in a McLaren-branded car initially started off as a joke, despite the Spaniard never hiding his desire to claim the triple crown of motorsport.
Alonso attended a press conference along with Brown to talk about his Indy 500 drive - which will take place next month - with McLaren, Honda and Andretti.
During the press conference, Brown explained how the project was turned into a reality in a matter of weeks.
"It is one of those where one of your jokes has some truth in it. I said to Fernando pre-Australia: 'Hey one of these days we should do Indy together,” Brown said.
"I threw it out there to see what type of reaction I would get. He joked back and I thought I had thrown the bait in the water and would leave it at that.
"But when Fernando and I were with Eric and Honda in Australia, it came up in conversation one of the mornings.
"Fernando brought it up and said: 'Honda had an unbelievably great history at the Speedway and I have a dream to win the Triple Crown. I wanted to do Le Mans in the past and would love to do Indy with you.'"
Alonso revealed the idea developed just a few days following the Australian GP while chatting with Brown through a photoshoot in Los Angeles.
"I received a call from Zak about different things, not this one, and in one moment of the conversation, it came out again the Indy 500 possibility,” Alonso said.
"At that point I was happy that McLaren was considering this Indy 500 entry, as they had won in the past a couple of times.
"I was happy when Zak joined the team last year but I was even happier when Zak was telling me these plans for the future. But in a way I was thinking for 2018, as obviously it was only 55 days until Indy 2017."
All matters were discussed last week in China, on Friday night, when Alonso joined his manager Luis Garcia Abad, Brown and Boullier for a dinner, whose picture was published by the American CEO on his social media.
"We talked a bit more serious about this, and we decided if this is going to happen it had to be made by tomorrow [Saturday] the decision,” he said.
"I said 'I will sleep tonight' on Friday and on Saturday I would make a decision.
"On Saturday I arrived at the circuit and said, 'Yes this is a good decision for everyone: a win, win for myself, for F1, the fans, everyone'.
"I was not completely sure on Saturday in China if it was still possible to make it so quick, but we had a huge help from Indy, from the Speedway, from the promoter and together with Zak's contacts and Andretti Autosport.
"They helped everything become real in two days."
Brown clarified the Indy 500 entry procedure was due to Alonso’s approval, which was given in China in a short span of time.
"When Fernando said. 'let's go do Indy 500 with Honda', I thought 'now I have to pull this off'. And we did. There was a lot of hard work from IndyCar helping us being the scenes, Michael Andretti too, and it wouldn't happen without Honda's support.
"That is how we got started and how we ended up where we are today. And we are all very excited about it."
Alonso declared he is fully committed to Formula, 1 and Monaco will be the only venue he will skip to pursue his external plans. The double World champion has not finalised his plans to test his IndyCar McLaren, including driving the Dallara simulator, a pivotal element to train for this category.
by Beatrice Zamuner