Amid the news today that wasn’t unexpected but no less sitting up there at the highest point of the Richter scale, already speculation is rife as to the Spaniards plans after F1.
It won’t have escaped most fans notice that Alonso’s careful wording announcing the cessation of his competing in F1 for 2019 does appear to contain a ‘backdoor’, a caveat so to speak. Silly tricks by our beloved ‘Spanish Samurai’? Perhaps…
Norfolk’s favourite Pilsbury Doughboy and Formula 1 pundit Martin Brundle noticed how worn down the driver was saying: “In an interview with him I had the strong impression that he is fed up.”
And that impression was correct, because Alonso now admits that his decision to leave Formula 1 actually happened months ago.
Former teammate Jenson Button agrees with Brundle when he mentioned some time back:
“If you’ve won two world titles and all these races, then a fight for 9th is really nothing he wants to get used to.
“Fernando wants to believe that something is changing for the better. I knew at the time – if that’s not the case, then he could actually disappear from Formula One”
“Fernando only wants one race. If he does not sit in a car on a GP weekend or drive an endurance race, then he just gets into a kart.
“He always drives. He gives full throttle without ceasing. That’s the way it is. He needs that feeling. He won this year at Le Mans straight away, now he still lacks the victory in the Indy 500. He wants the Triple Crown.”
The most notable aspect of Alonso’s announcement is that of specifying just 2019 with regards to his stopping F1. The hint is a possible return to McLaren’s formula 1 team? Unlikely, but perhaps our Spanish Samurai has finally learnt the painful lesson of not burning bridges.
“I want to thank everyone at McLaren. McLaren will always have a place in my heart. I know that they will return to winning ways – maybe that would be the right time for me to return. That would make me very happy. ”
The biggest hint about the Spanish drivers future is actually in the statement made above. By not burning bridges, by not turning his back on the team, it very much indicates a significant continued involvement with McLaren.
McLaren has actually been testing a full-time IndyCar Sport for some time now and McLaren CEO Zak Brown admitted that “Fernando really enjoyed his trip to America.”
And that “He definitely wants to drive the Indy 500 again if the timing is right. Indy was undoubtedly a great experience.”
“We left despite the failure with a good feeling. Yes, I would like to see McLaren regularly in Indycar. But the decision has not been made yet. We will decide that at the earliest in a few months.
“If it were up to me, then we will return.”
Brown further illuminates McLaren’s stance on Indycar when talking to Indystar in the US – “Fernando has expressed his frustration that F1 is more of a manufacturer than a driver’s Championship”
“If you look at our race results, you have to agree with him. He wants to challenge himself, and it could well be that participating in the Indy 500 or the entire IndyCar series would tempt and fuel him.
“Fernando is very interested in the IndyCar series.”
Indeed this does seem to be the most likely direction for Alonso. That is to stick with McLaren, but not in their F1 efforts. McLaren are still large enough to put resource into other series (whether they should is of course another question).
The commercial brain of McLaren boss won’t want to let go of his prize, but will also see the opportunity to use Alonso as a perfect marketing tool for McLaren’s plans to increase their road going car market share state side.
A McLaren in Indycar with a ‘superstar’ Alonso going for the so-called Triple Crown is indeed a huge marketing resource.
Alonso returns to driving a Honda?
Even the manager of Honda’s motorsport division Masashi Yamamoto says he would be open to Fernando Alonso racing for a Honda-powered entry in IndyCar next year.
Honda received huge amounts of criticism from Alonso during its three poor years in partnership with McLaren in Formula 1, but Yamamoto is not ruling out the possibility of the pair being reunited in IndyCar.
“Drivers exist or they’re here to win races. That’s their goal.” says Yamamoto.
“I’m very neutral in that sense. Regarding last year, I feel very sorry for the McLaren drivers because we were unable to achieve their goals, to give them an opportunity.
“Regarding Indy, I’m just an advisor, and it’s all decided by America Honda , I can only advise it. I think he’s a fabulous driver.”
Before his ignominious exit, former racing director Eric Boullier conceded that the general plan was to try and retain Alonso within McLaren, no matter in what capacity, when asked about a move to Indy.
“As far as we are concerned for Fernando, we would like obviously for him to stay in the McLaren family and I’m not sure yet he has taken his decision, so we will see at the right time.”
“I can not imagine going on” – Alonso
Alonso also commented saying, “Every one of you knows how Formula One works. You know your goals, you know your options.
“You must try to make the most of your opportunities and drive development. We are confident that we can make progress with further improvements to the chassis and engine.
“But I also know that if the other teams develop as efficiently as we do then we will stay put”
“Le Mans is a race is incredibly demanding, no matter in which class. You are constantly fighting. Everything has to fit: technology, pit stops, driver performance.
“Favourites stumble. That’s exactly the unpredictability that Formula 1 is missing. A team that started in 14th place finished third.
“We are sitting here, and each of us knows – you can at best be third against the top teams. That’s the biggest problem of Formula 1. ”
Last summer, Alonso made further comments say, “I’ve spent 17 years of my life in Formula One, but I do not want to leave Grand Prix racing with a bad taste in my mouth.
“I do not want to go knowing that I could not give 100 percent. But I also want to feel useful, I want to contribute, I want to move the team forward. If all this is missing, then I can not imagine going on.”
Jenson Button knows how Fernando Alonso is ticking. The 38-year-old Englishman drove from 2015 to 2017 alongside Fernando Alonso for McLaren-Honda. “I sensed in which situation Fernando is. You hear that from his radio messages.” concludes Button.
“These are statements that reflect the honest emotions of a racer. The only thing Fernando can do at the moment is beat his team-mate Stoffel Vandoorne.
“And he does that quite impressively. ”
In qualifying, Alonso is the only driver on the grid to comprehensively beat his team mate 12-0.
With Fernando Alonso, our favourite Samurai, you can never really be sure what’s next. It can not be ruled out that the Asturian 2019 will recharge its batteries in the US, and perhaps pick up the Indy 500 win.
Should the unthinkable then happen and McLaren Renault actually improve significantly during the course of 2019, perhaps we might see the old dog back again competing in a McLaren for 2020. Stranger things have happened.