In a certain respect, Fernando Alonso has been gradually saying goodbye to Formula 1 since last year. Perhaps he chose this approach in order to ease the pain of a traumatic separation from the motor sport category that has brought him so much success, opting to embark on other adventures, such as the legendary Indy 500 race, as well as the World Endurance Championship (WEC) – the two series being his most likely destination in the near future.
After winning Le Mans this year, he didn’t rule out going back to Indianapolis as soon as possible
After his surprise announcement on Tuesday that he would not be driving in Formula 1 next season – he stopped short of announcing his complete retirement – the only thing that is sure for the moment is that when he gets out of his Renault-powered McLaren for the last time at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, on November 25, he will still have three races left to run with Toyota in 2019 in the WEC: the 12 Hours of Sebring (March 16-17), the Six Hours of Spa (May 4) and the 24 Hours of Le Mans (June 15-16).
It was at this year’s edition of the latter race, at the legendary Le Sarthe circuit, where the Spanish double Formula 1 champion took the most important step toward his goal of equaling the record of Briton Graham Hill, the only driver in history to have taken what is known as the Triple Crown: winning the Monaco Grand Prix, the Le Mans 24 Hours, and the Indy 500. Only the last challenge eludes Alonso, after the Honda engine in his car last year gave up, denying him a chance to fight for a victory that was still in his grasp.
After winning Le Mans this year, he didn’t rule out going back to Indianapolis as soon as possible. “It’s true that once you have Le Mans and only one is left, the call is a little stronger,” he said at the time, albeit still unwilling to confirm where his future lay.
On Monday, the official Indycar Twitter account was feeding the rumors that Alonso would soon be arriving at the sport
At the same time, on the other side of the Atlantic, rumors in the paddock grew. “He really liked his experience in Indianapolis,” says Catalan driver Oriol Servià, who has been racing in America for the last 18 years. “We all know that the three greats are a goal that he has clear in his head, which is why I’m not at all surprised that he was at the Indy 500 and that he is really weighing up doing a whole season in IndyCar.”
Servià also says that IndyCar could give Alonso the thing that he has lacked in Formula 1: unpredictability. In recent years in the category, it has been clear from the outset of the season which two teams will be vying for victory.
“For a long time it was just a problem that lasted a year, because the next year the regulations would change,” Servià explains. “But now the rules only leave room for a little evolution from one season to the next, and we have dominating teams such as Mercedes. That’s why Fernando sees himself as burnt out.” IndyCar is different, adds Servià. “There he can choose from at least four teams who will have a chance to win every weekend and in the championship itself.”
Servià’s message coincides with the one that Alonso himself has given on a number of occasions during his time at the Indy 500. He won the respect of his team, Andretti Autosport, as well as that of the rest of the grid and the fans, who gave him a standing ovation when he retired from the race. For his part, he showed his skill on the track, as well as his skill in putting on a show – at the post-race press conference, he drank from a little carton of milk as a tribute to the long-standing tradition of the actual winner drinking from a bottle each year.
On Monday, the official Indycar Twitter account was feeding the rumors that Alonso would soon be arriving at the sport, asking him if he was “still on for that lunch tomorrow?” just after the Spaniard sent out the tweet revealing that he would not be racing next year. Another hint came from the Twitter profile of the Indy 500 circuit, saying: “DM us if you want to chat.”
“If he comes back it will just make the race more exciting,” says Oriol Servià. “I will have the chance again to share a track with our world champion. And as I said before, and it nearly happened, I hope that we are both on the last lap, fighting for victory … and I end up taking it.”
English version by Simon Hunter.