Start, Indianapolis 500, 2016

Alonso’s shock IndyCar move is good news for (almost) everyone

CommentPosted on | Author Keith Collantine

If you’re a Fernando Alonso fan who’s bought tickets for the Monaco Grand Prix, you’ve every right to feel a bit downhearted about today’s jaw-dropping news that he will skip the race to enter the Indianapolis 500 instead.

But for everyone else, this is good news.

It’s good news for Alonso who, after three years without a car capable of winning a race, will be in with a shot of winning one of the greatest races in the world.

Don’t be put off by the fact he’s never raced there before. Alonso is a bona fide motor racing great and, as Alexander Rossi proved last year, this is the kind of race even a newcomer can win.

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It’s good news for McLaren-Honda. And they need it. Without it there’s little sign they’re going to have anything positive to talk about regarding the performance of their F1 team this year. Their willingness to let Alonso race outside F1 and their ability to facilitate may even help them hold on to him beyond the end of his current contract.

It’s great news for IndyCar. And it really needed it. Since the end of the split which wrecked a series which once rivalled F1, it’s been in dire need of positive and genuinely attention-grabbing stories.

Rubens Barrichello’s arrival in 2012 sadly proved a one-off. Getting Juan Pablo Montoya back from NASCAR in 2015 was a great box office draw, but he is also no longer among the full-time runners.

For a two-times world champion like Alonso to spurn the biggest race on the F1 calendar to do the biggest race on the IndyCar calendar is seismic.

Alexander Rossi, Andretti, IndyCar, Indianapolis 500, 2016
Can Alonso ‘do a Rossi’?
And it’s good news for F1 too. That might seem like a contradiction: How can it be good for both championships? Losing Alonso from Monaco is certainly a blow.

But the question of who McLaren will replace him with adds another fascinating news storyline. Particularly as the team is in the enviable position of having the services of another world champion, Jenson Button, to potentially call on as a replacement.

And having one F1’s star drivers appear at America’s most famous race – a market its new owners desperately wish to crack – is clearly a benefit.

If Alonso conquers it as his first attempt it will bolster F1’s reputation as the home of the world’s greatest racing drivers. This point was apparently lost on the sport’s previous administration.

Bernie Ecclestone did not look kindly on ‘his’ drivers going to race in other championships. In 2015 Nico Hulkenberg did two World Endurance Championship races for Porsche, taking a shock win at the Le Mans 24 Hours at his first attempt. The following year Ecclestone made sure an F1 round clashed with the endurance classic.

This has failed to dissuade Alonso from going to the Indianapolis 500. He revealed his desire to tackle the race early last year, calling it “fascinating” and “radical”.

A Le Mans win is also on his to-do list, and if he can win all three he will have cemented his position as one of the sport’s all-time greats. It will be thrilling to watch him try.

I cannot wait to see him in full flight averaging over 350kph (220mph) around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, in the thick of a snarling pack of 33 cars.

This is good news for IndyCar and for F1, for Alonso and for us motor sport fans. Unless, I admit, if you’re an Alonso fan with Monaco tickets.

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34 comments on “Alonso’s shock IndyCar move is good news for (almost) everyone”

  1. … Or Stefan Wilson

    1. Eh, he’s coping with it pretty well. Infact, he made sure it could happen: https://twitter.com/MichaelShankRac/status/852213719765368832

    2. I think it is good news for him as well though. He gets a lot of credit for cooperating. And it seems he will now have a solid chance of doing a full season next year. Not something to sneeze upon at all.

  2. It harks back to the golden years of racing when drivers were all too keen to race anything, anytime they wanted.

    Jim Clark, Graham Hill, Jackie Stewart, Jack Brabham, even Farina and Ascari raced at Indy, and how often did we see F1 drivers race at Le Mans from the 60’s to the 90’s ??

    We’ve seen F1 drivers tackling the odd WRC round in days gone by.

    How many NASCAR and IndyCar drivers tackled Daytona and Indy in the same year ??

    I would love to see Fernando do the triple crown, and imagine if we saw Montoya grab a last minute ride at Le Mans to try and beat Fernando to it ??

    Bernie deliberately making Le Mans clash with Baku last year was spiteful beyond belief and he would have probably sued Fernando for breach of contract if he was still around.

    Racers race. Fernando is a racer.

    This is why I love racing.

    1. Not to defend Bernie too much, but the original 2016 calender did not contain the Le Mans/Baku clash. This only came about after the teams complained they couldn’t have a long enough summer break with the proposed calender.

      But this is indeed great news. I was going to watch Indy anyway, but now I’ll have someone to cheer for too!

      1. @cashnotclass
        Sorry, but you lost me at: “not to defend Bernie too much” :)

      2. It would be great if the Monaco date was changed. The 500 has went on for 101 years and it’s date will never change. Monaco is on the same date as the 500 to keep F1 drivers from doing what Alonso is doing. That’s a shame, because this is great for anyone who loves racing. As with all Indy 500’s, this will be great theater.

    2. You know, Montoya and Alonso in the same team would be a dream! Both winning the triple crown at the same time. It has to be with Porsche then, since I don’t see Alonso joining that other Japanese manufacturer whilst racing for/with Honda.

      I welcome this exciting move, just like when Nico Hülkenberg drove Le Mans. That’s also what I liked about Montoya in his early days: he drove about anything he liked and was immediately one of the fastest.

      Let’s do this more often and who cares if it clashes with F1? It’s not like Fernando is fighting for the championship or anything, surely Ferrari, Mercedes and Red Bull won’t let this happen with their line-up. But it gives rookies a chance to actually make a name for themselves as well.

  3. WilliamB (@william-brierty)
    12th April 2017, 18:59

    I very much enjoy watching IndyCar, and I would be overjoyed if Alonso could figurehead a resurgence for the series, and a whispered link-up with F1 could be a great foothold in the American market. But for me, there have always been two endemic frustrations hanging over IndyCar racing.

    1) Drivers: as an American series, the observable preference for American drivers is understandable, but it does undermine the quality of the field. Given the European schooling underpinning the speed of series stars Rossi and Newgarden, the series could better make use of European single seater stars. Instead of the likes of Frijns, Calado, Marciello, Bird, Lynn and Da Costa racing in GTs and Formula E, it would be great to see them in IndyCar. On the flip-side, home favourites Andretti, Hildebrand, Daly and Carpenter appear to remain in the series out of sheer habit.

    2) Closing the pitlane: strategy in IndyCar is nothing more scientific than a slot-machine. The utterly arbitrary act of closing the pitlane under caution is undeniably none more than a crude attempt to randomize the results. It is completely unnecessary, IndyCar racing is exciting enough as it is; just look at Sunday’s thrilling contest between two-stopping Hinchcliffe and Hunter-Raey, and three-stopping Newgarden and Dixon. Had a yellow came any earlier and the contest would have been ruined.

    Solve these issues, and F1 has a highly commendable partner series in the midst of its most revered market.

    1. All it takes to ruin a good racing series is one rich jerk at the top. They have a few good ideas, at most, and 99 bad ideas that eventually cripple or kill the series.

      CART and the Indy 500 was ruined by Tony George. F1 at Long Beach was ruined by Chris Pook, whose insane decisions crippled and almost killed Clay Reggazoni. And we all can see the sad results of Bernie’s grand plan for F1.

      I’d add NASCAR, but that stopped being a “racing series” decades ago.

      1. Could not agree more regarding Tony George especially. Truly and totally selfish relentless destruction of a once great racing series. Ego and greed, downfall and destruction. It didn’t have to be that way. Instead of building his own brand and series, he nearly completely destroyed it all. Sorry, don’t get me started.

        Also agree about Pook and Ecclestone too. Benevolent dictators are hard to find…

    2. UNEEDAFINN2WIN
      12th April 2017, 19:23

      Preference to American drivers? Every Indycar fan out there will tell you there’s a distinct lack of American open wheel talent in Indycar. Most of the grid is international.

    3. Good that you mention the arbitrary nature of Indycar, because Keith seems to forget in his ‘a rookie can win’ idea that Alexander Rossi got incredibly lucky with fuel and such last year. Not exactly a firm example of why Alonso should be able to win.

      1. Well, Alonso was lucky with the right fuel and strategy before, wasn’t he @hahostolze ….

        Seriously, well said @william-brierty, though of course part of the reason for point 1) is probably also drivers fearing that once they leave for the US, the forfeit any chance of an F1 return (look at Rossi, won the 500, true, with some luck but still, didn’t give him chance of a seat anywhere in F1).

  4. While this is not exactly the way things used to be in racing back in the day when racers raced in whatever series they could any time, anywhere. It is a big step in the right direction. Racers want to race!

    The most positive thing about this is the realization on all sides that this can help promote each others racing series and generate massive fan interest. This should dispel the previous backwards thinking by folks like Bernie that this cross pollination would somehow be detrimental to Formula 1.

    The primary reason I am a fan of F1 today is because of Jim Clark racing in the Indy 500 and winning all those years ago. I became fascinated with F1 as a result and have been ever since.

  5. Bernie also made sure the gp of the UK would clash with Wimbeldon. I really hope these times are over, Alonso madea good point.

    1. Alonso will try a Grand Slam now?

  6. @keithcollantine

    Will you be lending your commentary service? It’ll be good to have someone with some decent F1 knowledge…

  7. Can hardly disagree. Aside from what this could mean for Alonso’s career, it stands to be a major PR coup for McLaren and more broadly both racing series. Good on everyone who’s making it happen.

  8. I think it is a good move for all involved really. If Fernando enjoys it, who knows he may go IndyCar full-time. His only real option of decent drive in F1 next year seems to be with Mercedes.

    I would love to Jenson back for one more race as well. I hope he says yes to Monaco.

  9. It is a big risk. With not much experience.

  10. This seems like a sizable committment of time. I assume Alonso would depart McLaren F1 right after the Spanish GP (May 14th) to begin practice at Indy (May 15th) and work in Indy through speed week quality and pole Saturday up through the race on the 28th?

    Would he then head back to England or hang about until Montreal on the 11th of June? Anyway I have a very relaxing lake house if you’re interested Fernando.

    1. I’d say send him the offer on twitter or something, who knows, maybe he’ll visit – he does seem like he likes to interact with fans.

  11. it would be hilarious if he wins it and then drives the next f1 race. ‘Ah great this again’

  12. I’m an Alonso fan with tickets for Monaco! It’s the first F1 race I’m attending for two and a half years so it’s not ideal news!

    However I was fortunate enough to attend my first ever Indianapolis 500 race last year. I took three weeks off work and went to the Indy GP, all the practices, and the race itself. The history of the race is incredible and I sincerely hope that Fernando can add his name to the exclusive list of winners. I will be cheering him on all the way. He wants the Triple Crown, so if he doesn’t win the race this year he will be back in the future for sure!

  13. Being old enough to remember watching (see below) my hero Jim Clark win at Indy in 1965, I love the whole idea of Alonso giving it a go this year. But let’s be realistic: it’s more than likely that he’ll have a pretty mediocre or even poor showing. He has zero oval experience and Indy is insanely challenging. Find the recent Motor Sport issue where 3 time Indy 500 winner Dario Franchitti goes into detail about the mental challenges of qualifying, let along the race itself.

    Note: Back in 1965, the Indy 500 wasn’t shown live on U.S. television. I listened to the live radio broadcast of the race and then had to wait for a replay broadcast later. It was even worse for U.S. F1 fans: we had to wait for 1 or 2 paragraph race summaries in the newspaper and we were lucky if we could even find occasional highlights of F1 races on TV.

  14. Alonso to spurn the biggest race on the F1 calendar

    Bah! The most boring one.

  15. Alonso to win at Indy…… Hulkenberg to win at (maybe a wet) Monaco !!
    Sets up an exciting few years for the triple crown.

  16. @keithcollantine

    If you’re a Fernando Alonso fan who’s bought tickets for the Monaco Grand Prix, you’ve every right to feel a bit downhearted about today’s jaw-dropping news that he will skip the race to enter the Indianapolis 500 instead.

    But for everyone else, this is good news.

    I beg to differ. I do not have tickets for the Monaco GP, but picture me indifferent at best.
    For F1, this is bad news. It’s never a good thing to miss the best driver on the grid, no matter how uncompetitive he currently is, no matter the reasons. Therefore, the Monaco weekend is already devalued before it has begun.

    Additionally, I see no reason to be excited for his participation in a race that’s basically important for being important, and not for being particularly challenging or rewarding only the most outstanding talents. It’s a race that almost literally consists of going in circles, round and round and round, nearly flat out all of the time. A race that’s much more likely to be decided be the inevitable multiple-cars-pileups (that result from this form of racing, where it is virtually impossible to shake the chasing pack by driving skillfully, as drafting greatly outweighs any difference a driver’s skill can make to lap times) or sheer strategic luck.

    It’s a worthless race, that’s what it is. If Alonso wants to have some fun there, good for him. But there’s no way I can consider this as a zero-sum-situation, much less a win-win situation. It’s the Indy 500 that benefits, but from my perspective, it’s a complete waste.

    1. B-Dog the Man
      13th April 2017, 15:59

      I beg to differ….I have no idea how you think the Indy 500 is “not particularly challenging” etc….that doesn’t make any sense. Driving at over 220 mph alongside packs of other cars, inches from a wall, with turbulent air, etc is much more challenging than ANYTHING a F1 driver ever has to do. AND, don’t get me wrong, I love both F1 and Indy as well as other motorsports and have been following motorsports for 40+ years now. I don’t see how anyone but a non-motorsports fan, or someone jaded about something to do with Indy, would utter such an idiotic statement. Maybe you prefer F1 to Indy, that’s fine, we’re fine with that, but to insinuate that it’s somehow a walk in the park is utterly false. In fact, it’s an order of magnitude harder to do (and take a lot more balls to do it) than anything in F1.

      1. Not a non-motorsports fan, nor jaded, just a motorsports fan who loathes oval racing because it lacks everything that I consider essential to racing. I don’t care about balls, I want to see a thorough test of skill. Oval racing does not provide enough of that for me to consider it a worthy form of motorsport. Sitting in a screaming car inches away from a wall in a pack of 20 cars going almost 400 kph in turbulent air and whatnot – yeah, that sounds thrilling. But why are there 20 cars in the same pack in the first place? Because apart from four veeery slightly different, very nearly flatout corners that repeat themselves endlessly, there’s not much a drivers skill is tested against. And there’s a slipstream that helps compensate deficits in ballsiness to a certain, certainly not negligible, degree.

        But I’m probably wasting my breath anyway. You think it’s an order of magnitude harder to do than anything in F1, well you can think whatever you want. But you lost me there.

    2. Worthless race.
      lol look at this guy

  17. @keithcollantine can you please post an article about Indycar racing and some rules for fans like me who never followed it earlier and also when is Indy500 race to be held. Thanks in advance

  18. Tim in Canada
    13th April 2017, 22:00

    Best F1 story in years.

    We all miss the days when teams raced in multiple categories. Why? It showed they were racers, not constructors or companies.

    This is the passion that attracts fans. We all win with more passion. Alonso is arrogant but passionate, and thus important for F1 and now American fans.

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