Be honest, when it was announced today Fernando Alonso would race at the Indy 500 this year we all thought the same thing.

2017 has been horrible for the Spaniard and McLaren up till now, as problems with the Honda power unit have left the team battling at the back. So to hear he was going to Indianapolis was merely the first sign of the seemingly inevitable departure at the end of this year.

Yet when you understand the full story, that this one-off appearance is a collaboration with McLaren and Honda teaming up with IndyCar’s Andretti Autosport squad, you realise this is a project that only benefits all sides and particularly Formula 1.

It shouldn’t be a coincidence that this comes in the first year of the sport having American owners and McLaren being run by an American in Zak Brown.

Capturing the American market has been a goal for F1 for decades, with numerous different races held, including a stint at Indianapolis. But now one of the premier teams and one of its finest drivers are going to show off what they can do in front of millions.

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The mere thought of this being able to occur if Bernie Ecclestone was in charge would have been ludicrous, remember he was the man that put the Baku race on the same weekend as the Le Mans 24 Hours a year after Nico Hulkenberg went over and won.

But under the leadership of Chase Carey and Sean Bratches, they understand this sort of free publicity is exactly what F1 needs if it is to regain popularity.

Of course, it’s a massive risk. If a McLaren and Honda-backed IndyCar goes as badly as its current F1 car then it would be a disaster.

Just by turning up and being competitive, however, would almost certainly attract a few more to tune in for the Canadian Grand Prix which follows two weeks after and may sell a few more tickets for the US race at Austin later in the year.

For IndyCar too, this is a massive coup. To have the ability to attract an F1 team into participating along with their star driver on the same weekend as the Monaco Grand Prix raises their brand significantly.

It will also no doubt make this year’s Indy 500 worldwide audience one of the biggest in recent memory.

Does it harm the prestige of Monaco? Maybe a little. Then again it has always been unfortunate that two of motorsport’s ‘Triple Crown’ fall on the same day.

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This is also great for Alonso. F1 fans know he is still one of the best on the grid and has simply been let down by his equipment over the past seven years.

Now he gets to prove that by doing something completely different, potentially add a second leg of the Triple Crown to his CV, alongside his two Monaco wins, and also provides an excellent getaway from McLaren’s current F1 woes.

This is a win-win-win-win whichever way you look at it and for someone who admittedly has never fully watched an Indy 500, creates something new to look forward to after overcoming the initial shock!

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