Fernando Alonso’s decision to skip the Monaco Grand Prix in order to race in the Indy 500 must be applauded from an ambition point of view, however, there is a sense that the two-time world champion’s love affair with the sport may be waning after two (and a bit) unsuccessful years with McLaren.
Alonso is still lauded as one of the best drivers on the grid and McLaren must be given respect for adhering to Alonso’s wishes as a reward for consistently outperforming an under-par race car, but how long can McLaren keep the 35-year-old happy?
£25.5m a year goes some way in keeping Alonso smiling, but it is now eleven years since Fernando last won the Drivers World title, and that must rankle a driver who was tipped to dominate the sport. After leaving Renault at the end of 2006, Alonso’s career appears to be a severe case of wrong team, wrong time.
His first stint with McLaren was well documented and resulted in a return to a Renault team already in decline after just a year. Five years in a less than competitive Ferrari followed, before signing a three-year deal with a McLaren team who have been out of sorts for a number of years now. Alonso’s deal expires at the end of the season and whether he will stay put, join another team or leave all together is yet to be determined.
After leaving Renault at the end of 2006, Alonso’s career appears to be a severe case of wrong team, wrong time.
The outcome of the Indy 500 could play a factor in his decision. Alonso has made no secret of his desire to win motorsports triple crown of the Monaco Grand Prix, Indy 500 and Le Mans 24 hours. Only one man has ever won all three and that was Graham Hill. Alonso admits that there are two paths to becoming the greatest and that is to either win eight F1 World titles or win the triple crown. With the former offering no opportunity now, Alonso is turning his attention to the latter despite never having raced in an Indy car before.
Heading into the weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix, Alonso sits nineteenth (and second last) in the title race (Fernando was running in the points in China before a mechanical failure prematurely ended his race).
Confirmation of Alonso’s chances of winning the race are highlighted by odds of 1000/1 whilst his former teammate Lewis Hamilton is 3/4 to claim back-to-back wins according to 888. For a driver of Alonso’s calibre that must be mentally tough to deal with at every Grand Prix weekend.
2017 may well prove to be the year we see a generation of Formula 1 drivers bow out of the sport with Felipe Massa certainly in his final season, Kimi Räikkönen unlikely to be retained by Ferrari and Fernando Alonso already skipping Grand Prix for other disciplines.
It is a sorry but understandable affair if Alonso’s love affair with the sport is slowly fading away but despite this, Formula 1 is in rude health with the new takeover and Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel commencing battle for the 2017 title.