Before Alonso-mania took over Indianapolis this week, attention was focused on what Fernando Alonso does next year. His McLaren contract is up this season and his ambitions remaining completely unfulfilled by the team.
Unsurprisingly there is once again rumour in the F1 paddock of a move to Mercedes. There is talk of Ferrari too and nostalgic glances towards a Renault team that may or may not be improving.
Alonso – I want a car good enough to win races and championships
Alonso’s has long talked about wanting a car good enough to win races and championships in F1. Recently the context of that statement has changed. There is less direct reference to F1 regarding the illusive wins and championships.
IndyCar is racing for racers
Alonso has not hidden his admiration of the raw nature of IndyCar. He’s referred to it as being proper racing and racing for racers multiple times. The lack of advanced technology, the level playing field (by F1 standards at least) and the ability of the driver to make a real difference appeals to him massively.
$40 million worth of racing talent
Several teams may well want him and rightly would see big dollar signs above the diminutive Spaniard. Just as Carl Haas and Paul Newman did when the lured Nigel Mansell from F1 to IndyCar in 1993.
A different form of investment
The idea of the championship organiser helping a team get a top driver is completely at odds with not just motor sport traditions but American sporting tradition. The NFL would not help any single team bring in a big name they could not afford. Ditto baseball and the NBA. There would be pit lane brawls if for example, Hendrick Motorsports managed to lure Lewis Hamilton to NASCAR with financial support from the series.
But the situation is different for IndyCar. Any support from the series would and should be viewed as an investment. It is not favouring a team over another. It is boosting a series that needs all the coverage it can muster. The 2m viewers of Alonso’s debut run at IMS offers a tantalising glimpse of what might be.
Alonso-mania hits Pensylvania
Imagine that impact across a full season. Alonso mania hits St Petersburg, Texas, Watkins Glen, Pocono and Sonoma. F1 fans from Europe tune in to see how their best driver handles the challenge of racing in America. Merchandise sales go through the roof. Talk shows galore are desperate to understand why Alonso might ditch the bright lights and glitz of F1 for a series still, in relative terms, in the doldrums.
Investing in the future of IndyCar
IndyCar invests on behalf of the teams in securing races and broadcast coverage. Similarly the series invests in marketing and promotion to raise the profile of the championship overall. Surely supporting a big money move to get Alonso in to IndyCar full-time would fall in to the same category?