Indy 500 before the race/Fred Ortlip CC BY2.0

Alonso will look to become the second person ever, after Graham Hill in the 1960’s, to achieve the motorsport triple crown winning the Monaco Grand Prix, the Indy 500 and Le Mans

by Ruairi Daly

Fernando Alonso’s announcement to skip the Monaco Grand Prix to race in the Indy 500 is a huge win for Liberty Media, Formula One’s newest owners.

As he looks to put his name in motorsport history, the American owners will look to tap into a relatively new market for the sport, with formidable potential, and use Alonso as the figurehead. It’s a ploy you would never have seen under the former leadership of Bernie Ecclestone and a refreshing front for the sport looking to revive its aging self.

It’s a clear statement of intent from the Spaniard to look beyond the horizons of Formula One and begin delving into other forms of motorsport racing. His love of racing dwindles these days as his career became unstuck in a tepid McLaren-Honda powered car.

Alonso at the Indy 500, 2017/Zach Catanzaneti Photo, PD

Alonso will look to become the second person ever, after Graham Hill in the 1960’s, to achieve the motorsport triple crown winning the Monaco Grand Prix, the Indy 500 and Le Mans. Back-to-back wins in 2006 and 2007 at Monaco means he has already ticked off one of the three required wins, and on May 28th he will look to make it two out of three.

With his Formula One career at a crossroads in the final year of his three-year deal with McLaren, it could also be one last bargaining chip from the team to keep him on board for the foreseeable future. Whether that’s in Formula One or not remains to be seen, but you would have to question that given the current performance level in Formula One.

A manufacturer involved around the world in motorsport would be wise to keep a marketable tool like Alonso on board. His quick-witted persona and above all his racing ability makes him a valuable asset beyond the realms of Formula One if he chooses to walk away.

The most iconic track on the Formula One race calendar will be without one of its star drivers and, regardless of his position, the two-time world champion still draws hundreds of thousands of fans from around the world. This weekend’s race in Bahrain offers a wider more adventurous track for drivers to attack – however, two non-finishes for Alonso to start the season mean expectations are at rock bottom.

Alonso in his McLaren-Honda car/Ben Sutherland CC BY2.0

Alonso’s decision highlights his discontent in his current position as a filler driver on the grid in the McLaren-Honda car. The Spaniard has made his feelings very clear to the engine suppliers, and has consistently criticised the performance levels of the MCL32. If Alonso could battle with his rivals of old like Hamilton and Vettel, it would be a no-brainer for the driver to stay with McLaren and Formula One.

It will be a steep learning curve for Alonso when the jets off from the Grand Prix at Catalunya to America for the Indy 500 next month, but it is certainly the right step for both him and for motorsport to draw in viewers across its many different forms.

About Ruairi
Born in Newry, Ireland, Ruairi Daly is pursuing a degree in Sports Journalism at Staffordshire University, England. He is the social media executive for Fresh Press and runs his own website, ReadCeltic, which focuses on news and matches related to the Scottish-based football club. He says he has “strong aspirations to travel and experience Spanish culture [he has been with Guidepost, Madrid, for months] and many other cultures around the world.”