The IndyCar driver market is heading into the volatile part of year with potential seats opening up at Andretti Autosport, Chip Ganassi Racing, and the most coveted seat in IndyCar, at Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. Two teams who might need drivers, and one that definitely does. Some potential drivers are known, such as Robert Wickens of DTM-Mercedes and IndyCar rookie Esteban Gutierrez. But there is a mystery driver among them, Fernando Alonso of McLaren-Honda.
You’re probably reading this and thinking there is no way Alonso would leave Formula 1. But what if I told you, Alonso going to IndyCar full-time wouldn’t be as crazy as you think? Early in the week, our own Ashley Quint reported on a potential move to Williams in 2018 for the Spaniard. But while our Ms Quint says going to Williams, would free Alonso up for future Indianapolis 500s, why stop there? Why not go full-time?
The Alonso to IndyCar rumour mill heated up when the 36-year-old competed in this year’s Indy 500, dismissing his F1 duties at Monaco for a Triple Crown attempt. As the F1 season enters its second half, Alonso’s displeasure with McLaren-Honda has grown and he weighing his options. Naturally, many predict he’ll go to another F1 team, but here’s why IndyCar is the much more appealing option.
First, Alonso would be coming in as the new universal aero kits are introduced on the Dallara DW12. These are slicker and more Champ Car-like than the current manufacturer specific aero pieces. In testing so far, the aero kits have been universally praised as more aesthetically pleasing. In 2018, F1 will be introducing the Halo safety device, which has had mixed opinions to say the least. Coming into IndyCar next year, allows Alonso to be in a more traditional-looking single-seater.
Second, if Alonso comes to IndyCar full-time, he’ll be the first F1 driver since Nigel Mansell to do so. If you recall, Mansell left Williams in 1993 displeased with the team and joined Newman/Haas Racing as the reigning F1 champion. Mansell would go on to win five races and get a podium finish in five more that year, en route to the 1993 CART IndyCar World Series driver’s championship. Alonso could do something similar. He is currently unhappy with McLaren and while he’s not the reigning F1 champion, he does have two titles to his name.
Should Alonso join IndyCar, SPM is the most likely landing spot, unless McLaren Honda Andretti become a full-time one-car outfit. Together in that #7 SPM-Honda, Alonso could be the driver to take title fight to the likes of Team Penske, CGR, and Andretti; similar to what Mansell did at Newman/Haas. Alonso has the skill, SPM has the car, and together they could be something special. In short, Alonso in 2018 could be Mansell in 1993. Watch as history repeats itself.
And finally, during his Indy 500/Triple Crown attempt, Alonso was a media and fan favourite. In 1993, media and fans flocked to Champ Car tracks to watch Mansell, with Alonso in IndyCar in 2018 it could truly take the Series to the NEXT level.