INDIANAPOLIS — Fernando Alonso has long been rumored to have interest in a full-time seat in the NTT IndyCar Series. The rumor actually held some merit in fact. Alonso, admitted to that on an interview for the 24 Hours of Le Mans social media channel this week. But, he also admitted too that he was considering a full time seat here in the United States a couple of years ago and that he no longer is.
“I don’t think so, that was something that I considered maybe two years ago,” Alonso said of a full time IndyCar seat for 2021. “When I stopped Formula 1 I was thinking about what to do next, and obviously winning the WEC championship, and the Formula 1 championship, what if one day I’m IndyCar champion? Not only the 500, trying to win the championship in general.
“That would be unique. That would not be the second man in history, that would be the first man in history, and that was always very appealing.”
Alonso, grew sick of the F1 political climate as the years went on. Unless you drove for a top team, you had no shot of winning a Grand Prix. The last time a non Ferrari, Mercedes or Red Bull team won in F1 was way back in 2013. The Spaniard was with McLaren and knew that his days of racing with the “big 3” were also gone too. That’s why he set his sights on a new goal – the triple crown.
Alonso, has won Monaco. He’s won Le Mans. All he needed to do now is to win the Indianapolis 500 and he’d have won the three biggest races in the world.
He tried in 2017 and had a car capable of winning that year too. Unfortunately, his engine failed him in the closing stages while running in the top five. Also, he was a rookie that year, racing on an oval for the first time of his life. He wanted to give it another try. He came back last year but his team let him down badly. He is planning on being back this year and will attempt to now earn the ‘500 victory in August.
But, we also know that winning an IndyCar one-off race is as hard as ever. There’s no doubt, IndyCar is arguably the toughest form of motorsports to win in. The field is as stacked from top to bottom as any series in the world. It’s a league where their “Big 3″ are certainly the ones to beat, but every team also has a shot at winning on any given day.
Given said that, in order for Alonso to have a true proper chance of winning the Indy 500, he likely needed to race full time in order to have a full grasp. Just showing up one month out of the year when you have 24+ full time drivers that do this every race, well they already have a leg up on you.
That’s why IndyCar was appealing to Alonso a few years ago to race full time. He could be competitive in every race again. Racing would finally be fun. The late years in F1 sucked the fun out of it for Alonso. IndyCar was the breath of fresh air.
Now though, Alonso doesn’t have the energy to run full time here in the States. His only goal is to win Indy and that’s the track he wants to learn the most from. Why learn every other track on the schedule when he has no incentive to win at them? He doesn’t want to come here and be noncompetitive, so he’d have to learn how to race at St. Pete, Barber, Iowa, etc. He was eager a few years ago to doing that, but now, it’s too much of a commitment to being successful as a full time IndyCar driver, so he’ll just focus on Indy and Indy only.
“I don’t think so, because the commitment to do that will be too high at this part of my life,” Alonso continued. “I think a few years ago, maybe that was a possibility, but right now, to do 16 or 17 races, to know all the circuits — because they race at Laguna Seca, they race at Mid Ohio, they race at Long Beach — there are circuits that they (IndyCar drivers) know very well for many years, and I don’t know. I will require a level of preparation or commitment that maybe at this time in life I’m not happy to take.”
Alonso notes that at Indy, you get the longest practice time than any other race in the world and that he can close the gap rather quickly with that.
“The Indy 500 is already a nice commitment and a long preparation for one race, so I cannot imagine for the whole championship. That would be full dedication. And also there are five ovals, that you need to respect. The Indy 500 is already a risk in a way because the speeds are very high and you take that risk because the reward is very high, but to do the other ovals as well is always a concern for myself.”
So, what will Alonso do in 2021? He knows and hopes to announce soon. F1 is on his radar again, but he doesn’t want to race with this current car. The new car was supposed to come out next year but due to COVID-19, it’s being delayed to 2022.
“It’s something that I’ve been answering since 2018 when I did my last race in Abu Dhabi. I wanted to go out a little bit of Formula 1 because after 18 years of that routine and that pressure on your shoulders, I needed to breathe a little bit out of that environment.
“I always said, look, in 2021, there are new rules in Formula 1, I may come (back) because maybe there is more interest and the cars are more balanced, and maybe I’m hungry for traveling again or putting myself in contention.
“It’s true that Formula 1 now delayed the rules to 2022. That’s bad news in a way for the sport, because I think they need to balance the cars and they need these new rules as soon as possible. But it’s a choice that is understandable because with the current situation it was not possible to develop the cars for next year.
“In my personal case, I know more or less what I’m doing next year, and hopefully many of you will know very soon. I cannot say more.”