Alonso Indy move a consequence of failure
Alonso Indy move a consequence of failure

McLaren's decision to let Fernando Alonso miss the Monaco Grand Prix and race in the Indianapolis 500 is an extraordinary step that, while triggering a rush of excitement, is also a reflection of the team's current predicament.

If the unthinkable has become possible, it is because the team are so far off the pace in Formula One.

The double world champion said as much in a conference call on Wednesday after McLaren broke the news ahead of Sunday's Bahrain Grand Prix.

"To be honest, if we were fighting for a world championship, we cannot afford to lose a 25 points possibility," said the Spaniard. "Yet we are not in that position, unfortunately."

McLaren, the second most successful team after Ferrari in the history of Formula One in terms of wins and titles, have not won a race since 2012 and look a long way off doing so.

They are last in the current standings after two races without points and their once-great partnership with Honda, revived in 2015, has been beset by unreliability and a lack of engine power.

Fernando Alonso. Pic: AAP

Monaco is the slowest race on the calendar but also the most glamorous and one that packs in the sponsors.

It is unheard of in modern times for a top driver to miss it of his own volition or for a team to let him.

McLaren do have 2009 champion and former Monaco winner Jenson Button as a potential stand-in, however, even if nothing has been confirmed, with the Briton technically only on sabbatical.

No team has won Monaco more than McLaren and Alonso's race switch would have been inconceivable under former boss Ron Dennis, who said last May that "what always tops everything for me is Monaco."

Alonso still ranks, despite his struggles with a recalcitrant car, as one of the top three drivers but his patience is finite and he is out of contract at the end of the year.

There has long been speculation that he could walk away early from McLaren but an entry in the most high-profile single-seater race in North America, in a much more competitive car, might tilt the balance.

"This is a win/win situation for McLaren as a team, the partnership McLaren/Honda .. and for me also a great opportunity to experience this race," Alonso said.

"It's good also for the sport ... for the Indy it's good news, for Formula One it's good news."

Only one driver has ever won the Formula One championship, the Indy 500 and Le Mans -- Damon Hill's late father Graham -- and, with his dreams of a third F1 title fading, Alonso has begun to focus on that.

AAP