Fernando Alonso has been appointed a McLaren Racing ambassador and will test drive both its 2019 and 2020 Formula 1 cars to assist in the team’s development programme.

The two-time F1 world champion stepped away from the sport at the end of last season but continued to tease a potential return in the future if he could secure a competitive package.

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Alonso - who will contest the 2019 Indianapolis 500 with McLaren - has taken up a test driver role, with the team confirming he will “drive at selected tests to support the development of MCL34 and MCL35 for 2020” with a schedule to be announced at a later date.

“Becoming a McLaren ambassador is a true honour,” Alonso said. “It is a special team, and despite the challenges we have endured recently, it remains so.

“I said before I stopped racing in Formula 1 last year that I see myself with McLaren for a long-time to come, so I am delighted at this new role and the ability to stay closely involved with the team I feel is my spiritual home.

“We have the Indianapolis 500 in May of course, which I am looking forward to immensely, but this is just the beginning of many things we can do together. I am particularly passionate about nurturing young talent, whether that’s with my own team or helping the new generation of Formula 1 drivers at McLaren unlock their true potential. This is important to both the team and myself, so will be an especially rewarding part of my role.”

Alonso returned to the F1 paddock on day one of the second pre-season test at Circuit de Catalunya to observe McLaren’s new MCL34 and driver duo Carlos Sainz and Lando Norris.

“Fernando is part of the McLaren family,” Zak Brown, chief executive at McLaren, said. “He has set his place in the team’s history and continues to write his chapter of the McLaren story, so it is entirely appropriate that we formalise his status as a McLaren ambassador, joining another double champion, Mika Hakkinen.

“For any race team, having someone of Fernando’s class on hand to provide support through his experience is of huge value. His insights and perspective will be welcomed by both our drivers and engineers alike, while his stature and character remain highly appealing to our partners and fans.”

Alonso is aiming to become just the second driver after Graham Hill to secure the Triple Crown having already won the Monaco Grand Prix (2006 and 2007) and Le Mans 24 Hours (2018) leaving just the Indy 500 to complete his set.

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