Fernando Alonso’s Indianapolis 500 Debut

It’s not long now until the talking stops and we get to find out how well Fernando Alonso performs on his Indianapolis 500 debut. The move has generated a lot of talk.

The initial talk was, and still is to a certain extent, whether it was a good idea for Alonso to forsake competing at the Formula 1 Monaco Grand Prix. But more of the talk has also shifted to how well Alonso will do on his debut, with the opinion seeming to be around he might pull off the victory or otherwise end up retiring at some point during the race.

Alexander Rossi
Alexander Rossi waves to fans as the Indy 500 winner” by Greg Hildebrand is licensed under CC BY-NC_ND 2.0

Since the introduction of the DW12 Dallara chassis in 2012, rookies at the Indianapolis 500 have had mixed fortunes but there have been several good performances. These good performances include Rubens Barrichello’s 11th place finish in 2012, Carlos Munoz’s 2nd and A. J. Allmendinger’s 7th place finish in 2013, Kurt Busch’s 6th place finish and Sage Karam’s 9th place finish in 2014 and of course Alexander Rossi’s victory last year. So it could be said any finish inside the top ten would be phenomenal and a finish inside the top twenty is a good performance for a rookie, especially one without prior racing experience in the IndyCar series or on superspeedways. As is the case with Fernando Alonso.

McLaren MCL-32 / Fernando Alonso / ESP / McLaren Honda” by Artes Max is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

For those still not sure whether it was a good idea for Alonso to swap racing at Monaco for the Indianapolis 500, the sheer amount of discussion and debate that has been generated, both positive and negative, has shown that the decision to compete has been a good one. It has helped promote both Formula 1 and the IndyCar series, to put it briefly. It is also worth mentioning the number of additional viewers the race will have, if you take into consideration the reported two million who watched the live video of Alonso’s rookie test.

Screen Capture taken from IndyCar Series Facebook Live coverage of Fernando Alonso’s Rookie Orientation Test

It’s also worth noting that part of some of the Formula 1 community’s opposition to the move can be put down to the culture within Formula 1 of racing drivers being required and expected to be fully committed to the sport and not compete in other series. This is due in part to drivers potentially picking up injuries and potentially suffering fatal crashes whilst competing in other series, think Robert Kubica’s rally crash in 2011 or Stefan Bellof’s crash during an endurance race in 1985 whilst contracted to Tyrrell, to mention just two. Not forgetting the trouble and difficulty it can be to find an adequate replacement driver, although in McLaren’s case they had Jenson Button already signed to the team for 2017.

Fernando Alonso’s Indianapolis 500 debut has generated and will continue to generate a lot of talk and discussion, which is great. But the most pleasing thing for me is that there is a driver who isn’t just concerned about being a multiple world champion in a particular motorsport, but has the desire to try and be successful in a variety of racing series. Which is something Alonso should be commended for and why the 101st running of the Indianapolis 500 is well worth tuning in for.

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