INDIANAPOLIS — If you live under a rock and haven’t heard by now, two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso will make his Verizon IndyCar Series debut in next month’s 101st Indianapolis 500, driving for Andretti- Autosport in partnership with his McLaren-Honda F1 team.
There was an article written this week by Associated Press writer Jenna Fryer, downplaying Alonso’s entry to the big dance and stating it was more of a marketing ploy than a true attempt at the ‘Greatest Spectacle in Racing’.
Fryer also argued that the 35-year-old Spaniard running in the event has no real significance to the IndyCar Series beyond the race in May, and that it will not help the series grow over the long-term.
With all due respect to Jenna, for someone who has been around motorsports as long as she has, I cannot believe she missed the ball with her piece that badly.
But in order to get to the present, one must first go back in time in order to understand the importance of Fernando Alonso’s role in this announcement.
In the mid 2000s, Alonso bested the greatest F1 driver ever in Michael Schumacher, not once but twice.
Alonso entered the 2005 season searching for his second career victory and momentum for his Renault team, looking to end a near-two year winless drought dating back to Hungary in 2003. He wouldn’t have to wait long, winning three out of the first four races to begin his championship hunt.
All in all, the Spaniard won seven races, besting Finnish driver Kimi Raikkonen by 21 points to claim his first world championship. The following season, he claimed his second straight title, this time beating the retiring Schumacher by 13 points to retain the crown.
In 2007, Alonso left Renault for McLaren and was paired up with rookie sensation Lewis Hamilton. While the two teammates proved to be almost unstoppable on the track, the duo could not co-exist off the track. Neither could stand one another and the dysfunction of the team found itself out in the open for all to see.
Alosno won four races that season, as he and Hamilton waged one of the tightest points battles in F1 history, but finished a single point shy of winning his third championship as Raikkonen claimed the crown.
After only one season at McLaren, Alonso left and returned to Renault in 2008, but only stayed there for a single season before replacing Raikkonen at Ferrari in 2009. In his six seasons with Ferrari, Alonso won nine times and finished second in the point standings on three separate occasions, all behind Sebastian Vettel.
He also came excruciatingly close to winning a third and fourth championship, missing the mark by four points in 2010 and three points in 2013.
By the end of the 2014 season, Alonso left Ferrari, citing the tense atmosphere as being hard to work with within the Italian team. He rejoined his old team at McLaren, a team that was in the process of bringing an old engine manufacturer in Honda back into the sport.
The pairing could not have failed more spectacularly.
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