LONDON • McLaren driver Fernando Alonso will miss next month's Formula One Monaco Grand Prix to race for them in the Indianapolis 500, the British-based team said yesterday.
The two showpiece races take place on May 28 and McLaren - whose fortunes have plummeted in F1 - "will enter a single car in the 101st Indianapolis 500," said a team statement.
McLaren did not say who will take the the two-time world champion's place for the Monaco race, one of the highlights of the Grand Prix calendar.
However, the Spaniard's absence sparked speculation that his position could be filled in Monte Carlo by Britain's Jenson Button, another former world champion, who remains under contract in an ambassadorial role with McLaren.
Alonso will race in a Honda-powered Andretti car branded as a McLaren for the Indy 500, one of US motorsport's most prestigious races.
The 2005 and 2006 F1 champion said he wanted to compete in the Indy 500 to have a chance of fulfilling a career ambition of completing motorsport's "triple crown" in winning the Monaco Grand Prix, the Indy 500 and the Le Mans 24 Hours. The only driver to achieve the feat was the late Graham Hill.
"I realise I'll be on a steep learning curve, but I'll be flying to Indianapolis from Barcelona immediately after the Spanish Grand Prix," said Alonso. "I've won the Monaco Grand Prix twice, and it's one of my ambitions to win the triple crown. It's a tough challenge, but I'm up for it.
"I don't know when I'm going to race at Le Mans, but one day I intend to. I'm only 35 and I've got plenty of time for that."
Alonso is now in the final year of what has been a largely frustrating three-season deal with McLaren, with his failure to finish last week's Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai the latest disappointing result.
He joined in the hope of winning a third world title, but his best results have been three fifth places, with much of the blame attributed to the team's Honda engines.
Alonso insisted Monaco would be the only F1 race he would miss intentionally this season.