Going (kinda) big rather than going home
From the moment that Fernando Alonso and McLaren failed to qualify for the 2019 Indianapolis 500, a full-time McLaren IndyCar entry was somewhat of a guarantee.
When Kyle Kaiser of the under-funded Juncos Racing squad dumped Alonso out of the qualifying 33 on bump day, McLaren had all the evidence it needed that simply rocking up to the Brickyard once a year aspiring to beat IndyCar stalwarts in one of the most competitive arenas on the planet was a pipe-dream.
Commitment was required and has been duly delivered. McLaren has merged with Schmidt Peterson Motorsport to become the Arrow McLaren Racing SP entry for 2020 – a two car entry formed of SPM’s current seats.
Michael Conroy (AP Images)
Haas Formula 1 development driver Santino Ferrucci will make his IndyCar debut this weekend, substituting as part of the driver reshuffle at Dale Coyne Racing for the double-header at Detroit.
His development programme with Haas and current Formula 2 commitments with Trident mean that he remains on a path to F1. However, in an era in which seats at the pinnacle are as hotly contested as ever, getting a foot in the door at an IndyCar team could be hugely valuable.
IndyCar’s 2018 season-opener at St. Petersburg was a modern classic. Unfortunately for rookie Robert Wickens, classics aren’t that easy to forget.
Sebastien Bourdais won a second consecutive race at St Pete. This being the Frenchman’s first win since returning from his 215mph horror crash during Indy 500 qualifying last season, coming at his home venue no less, meant that it was an emotional scene in victory lane.
It would take an extraordinary circumstance to make Bourdais’ story a subplot but the ‘heartbreak’ suffered by Wickens, who was skittled out of the race lead by Alexander Rossi with just two laps to go, was just that.
Everyone loves a sporting showdown. Be it a Super Bowl heading into overtime or a bitterly contested match point at the end of a gruelling Grand Slam final. In motorsport, an epic race has the potential to be defined by the final lap – a scenario that is widely regarded a collectors’ item.
However, a blockbuster conclusion is not an uncommon occurrence in Formula 2. Hardly surprising in a series featuring spec-machinery and 20 aspirational racing drivers who all believe that they are destined to reach the pinnacle of motorsport that is Formula 1.
Last weekend’s F2 feature race at Monza was eventually won by Prema’s Antonio Fuoco, following a final lap clash between championship leader Charles Leclerc and Nyck de Vries that eliminated both drivers. Russian Time’s Luca Ghiotto initially claimed the top step of the podium but was handed a five second time penalty post-race for taking the scenic route through the first chicane on the frantic last tour.
Credit: Portlock / FIA Formula 2
Some series have seen similar final lap shenanigans that have defined rivalries, careers and even championships. Others have seen races written into motorsport folk-law. Here are some of the most dramatic final laps seen in modern motorsport.
Given that the summer break has starved Formula 1 fans of concrete news stories over the past few weeks, silly season speculation has been rife. While much of the discussion can be filed under far-fetched fan fiction, the rumours surrounding Fernando Alonso seem somewhat substantiated.
In reality, speculation regarding Alonso’s future has been a news feature ever since the disappointing McLaren Honda MCL-32 rolled out of the garage – and was swiftly rolled back into the garage – on the opening day of 2017 pre-season testing.
It is entirely possible that Alonso is now considering the very real prospect of a tilt at IndyCar in 2018.
A common trait of seemingly all motorsport fans is a desire to reminisce. It’s hardly surprising when you consider how richly diverse and intriguing history is in almost all categories.
After all, football has always been about two goals and one ball, but in motorsport, the goalposts have always been moving as technologies have come and gone and driver and team mentalities and priorities have evolved.
For those who love a trip down memory lane, 28th May is going to be a great occasion. Not only will Fernando Alonso become the first active F1 driver to compete in the Indy 500 this century, but he will once again go toe-to-toe with his old adversary Juan-Pablo Montoya.
It’s a battle they both seem to be eagerly anticipating.
The exclusivity of the “Triple Crown” means that it is not a prominent talking point in motorsport, despite its significance. Graham Hill remains the only man to have ever held the unofficial title, awarded for a driver taking victory in motorsport’s three most poignant events – the Monaco Grand Prix, Indy 500 and the Le Mans 24 Hours. Modern convention means that even the most talented drivers can only dream of winning the most coveted individual event in three separate series, however, Juan Pablo Montoya is a rare breed of driver. Perhaps this, combined with his remarkable talent, is why he has an opportunity to join the most exclusive of clubs.