By Peter M. DeLorenzo
Detroit. The hue and cry from the F1 establishment following the announcement that Fernando Alonso would forego the premier race of the F1 season - the Grand Prix of Monaco - in order to compete in next month's Indianapolis 500 was priceless, and I loved every minute of it. A few F1 drivers spoke up in favor of it but for many it was an outrage, an affront to all that was righteous and holy, and flat-out ridiculous.
The negative bleating from the blowhards in F1 was considerable. And to say that they came off as petulant, tedious and completely out of touch - and I'm talking about you in particular, Christian Horner - is an understatement. Instead of applauding Alonso for adding a little much-needed buzz to motor racing overall, they chided him for deigning to slight F1 by agreeing to run in an "inferior" event. Now that was ridiculous.
The fact that Alonso was willing to skip F1's premier race for a chance to run in the Indianapolis 500 is the motorsport story of the year. Instead of waiting for his F1 career to wind down, Alonso is stepping out of his hopelessly noncompetitive McLaren-Honda for a chance to win the biggest auto race in the world. What does Alonso lose by skipping Monaco? Not much. Though the power differential of the Honda-powered McLaren will be less pronounced in the confines of Monte Carlo, giving Alonso the possibly of delivering a top-six finish, why pound around for a "good result" when he could possibly win the one race that every racing driver dreams of winning?
Make no mistake, the challenge facing Alonso is monumental. He will have to learn a completely new racing discipline, racing an open-wheel car on a super speedway - arguably one of the toughest - in a matter of weeks, while racing against drivers who are the best in the world at the Indy car craft. Andretti Autosport is bringing in noted veteran Gil de Ferran to be Fernando's sounding board for all aspects of the art of speedway racing at the most hallowed speedway of them all, but Alonso will have multiple resources at his disposal, including Michael Andretti himself, who was among the very best to have ever turned a wheel at The Speedway.
Alonso's Indy adventure is the best news for racing in years. Let's fact it, the sport overall needs as much juice as it can get, and Alonso, a two-time World Champion, pursuing his dream to win racing's "big three" races - the Grand Prix of Monaco (which he has won twice), the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the Indianapolis 500, the single greatest motor race in the world - is huge. I applaud Zak Brown, an American who is the recently-minted executive director of the McLaren Technology Group, for being willing to shake things up a little. Okay, a lot. He put the Team McLaren/Honda/Andretti Autosport deal together, and he understands the promotional value of this move, but he also understands that by letting Alonso pursue his dream he may be able to keep Fernando interested in driving for McLaren in F1 while Honda struggles to get its act together. Brown has also suggested that it might signal the possibility of Team McLaren returning to the IndyCar series full time, which would make sense since the U.S. is rapidly becoming the most important market for McLaren's impressive array of sports cars.
So to hell with the hand-wringing and the naysayers in F1 who want to quash Alonso's dream. It's nice to see that a two-time World Champion still harbors dreams, and I respect the man for pursuing his dream on the biggest motor racing stage in the world.
And that's the High-Octane Truth for this week.
(Photo by Christopher Owens/INDYCAR)
Fernando Alonso: Shaking up the racing world in pursuit of his dream.
Editor's Note: Many of you have seen Peter's references over the years to the Hydrogen Electric Racing Federation (HERF), which he launched in 2007. For those of you who weren't following AE at the time, you can read two of HERF's press releases here and here. And for even more details (including a link to Peter's announcement speech), check out the HERF entry on Wikipedia here. -WG
Publisher's Note: As part of our continuing series celebrating the "Glory Days" of racing, we're proud to present another noteworthy image from the Ford Racing Archives. - PMD
(Courtesy of the Ford Racing Archives)
Indianapolis, Indiana. Jackie Stewart and Lola's Eric Broadley giving Graham Hill some pointers before his first laps in his John Mecom-entered American Red Ball Lola-Ford at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway during practice for the 1966 Indy 500. Hill would win the world's greatest race on his first try.