IndyCar almost landed another Formula 1 world champion for 2021

Jenson Button, McLaren, Formula 1 (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
Jenson Button, McLaren, Formula 1 (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images) /

2009 Formula 1 world champion Jenson Button reportedly had plans to compete in IndyCar during the 2021 season before the coronavirus pandemic hit.

The 2020 IndyCar season saw McLaren’s reentry into the sport as a full-time team, as they formed a partnership with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and title partner Arrow to form Arrow McLaren SP.

The team signed rookie Oliver Askew and unofficial rookie (not classified as a rookie since he competed in seven races in 2019) Pato O’Ward for the full season, which ended up being shortened from 17 races to 14 as a result of restrictions caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Their third driver for the Indianapolis 500, which was held in late August as opposed to its traditional Memorial Day Sunday date, was two-time Formula 1 world champion Fernando Alonso.

Alonso had also driven for the organization when they formed a partnership with Andretti Autosport for the 2017 Indy 500, and he failed to qualify for the event in his 2019 effort with the team.

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Another former McLaren Formula 1 driver was slated to compete for the team in 2021, and not just in one race but in 13 of the 17 races on the schedule. But that will unfortunately not happen due to his inability to test during the 2020 season, an inability which was brought on by the pandemic.

That driver was 2009 Formula 1 world champion Jenson Button, who had been aiming to compete in every road and street course race on the calendar throughout the year.

Here is what the 40-year-old Briton had to say about the matter, according to Motorsport News.

"“There was a possibility of me racing next year [2021] in IndyCar, it just didn’t come about because of COVID[-19]. I was supposed to do a couple of tests with McLaren.“First one I couldn’t do because of COVID, it was cancelled, and the second one was between the two Austrian GPs. So I missed out on doing that which is a shame because my aim was to do the road circuits, not ovals, I wouldn’t do ovals but to do all the road courses, but it just didn’t happen. If COVID didn’t happen, it probably would [have happened]. But I’m sure a lot of people can say the same thing.”"

Another champion from a non-IndyCar racing series, seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson, was also slated to test for the team in 2020. He also could not do so as a result of the pandemic.

However, unlike Button, Johnson is still set to compete in the sport in 2021, and he is set to compete in all the road and street course races like Button wanted to do. He did end up testing, but it was with Chip Ganassi Racing. He is set to compete for Chip Ganassi’s team in the upcoming season.

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Arrow McLaren SP are still slated to see a former McLaren Formula 1 driver compete for them in 2021, however. While their full-time driver lineup now consists of O’Ward and former Chip Ganassi Racing driver Felix Rosenqvist, it is two-time Indy 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya who is slated to pilot their third entry in this year’s running of the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing” on Sunday, May 30.