McLaren's IndyCar plans not reliant on Fernando Alonso switching series

McLaren insists its decision to race in IndyCar next year will not be influenced by the career ambitions of Fernando Alonso.

The British team is currently assessing a full-time return to the American series next season after running a one-off race with Alonso at last year's Indy 500. McLaren's senior management visited the Detroit Grand Prix earlier this month to explore options and has set a deadline of August to make a decision.

The timing of McLaren's return appears to fit perfectly with Alonso's ambitions to win the Indy 500 and complete motorsport's triple crown. The Spaniard won the Le Mans 24 Hours on Sunday and, combined with his two Monaco Grand Prix wins from 2006 and 2007, needs a victory at the Indy 500 to match Graham Hill's triple crown success from the 1960s and 1970s.

Alonso's F1 contract is due to expire at the end of the current season but he insists he is on a multi-year deal with McLaren, meaning he could join the team's IndyCar programme if it goes ahead. Yet McLaren boss Zak Brown insists his team will make its IndyCar decision regardless of Alonso's plan.

"Whether we do IndyCar or not will not be driven by whether Fernando wants to do it or not," he said. "We could do it with him, if that's what he decides. We could very much do it without him. We can't make decisions about where we race based upon what a driver wants to do.

"If he was racing with another team, that wouldn't deter us from racing. I think what we're talking to Fernando about is very long term. I think that's what he's got in mind. I think Fernando's first choice is to stay in the McLaren family."

If McLaren returns to IndyCar it is expected to do so with a one-car entry in cooperation with an existing team. But Brown said there are at least two options on the table for McLaren and stressed that they would not impact on the team's F1 programme.

"The ball's in our court to ultimately decide if we're going to do it and how we're going to do it. We've got a couple of different scenarios, so I think we're close to making a decision.

"I've seen some people say 'why don't you get your Formula One sorted?'. We're a big company, and because we wouldn't use Formula One resources, one [series] doesn't have anything to do with another. If it's a good time for us to enter IndyCar, or if it's a good time for us to enter World Endurance, it really has nothing to do with our Formula One.

"I see some of the critics out there, and I think it's a fair question. But we're big enough an organisation we can run different programmes without disturbing other programmes."