The peak of silly season looms as the Verizon IndyCar Series wraps up its 2016 calendar at Sonoma this weekend. Question marks hover over some of the most coveted seats in the series, with possible vacancies at Ed Carpenter Racing, Andretti Autosport, AJ Foyt Racing, and Team Penske to name a few.
Understandably the focus rests on 2017, but a case exists to explore the possibility of a massive addition to the 2018 IndyCar grid.
Fernando Alonso, whose contract with McLaren-Honda’s F1 team expires at the end of 2017, previously made his disdain for the modern era F1 cars known. In a press conference before last month’s Belgian Grand Prix, Alonso addressed the looming 2017 F1 regulations. Should the new regulation fail to produce a challenging and enjoyable car to drive, the two-time world champion indicated a likely retirement from Formula One at the conclusion of the 2017 season.
Aligning with the end of the 2017 F1 season, IndyCar recently confirmed the implementation of a uniform aero kit for the 2018 calendar. While Alonso’s remaining obligations to his 2017 McLaren contract likely means an inability to participate in IndyCar aero testing of its new aero kit, the Spaniard could offer valuable insight and developmental tips come January 1, 2018.
The lure of IndyCar for a two-time Formula One World Champion may seem unfathomable to many but the idea no longer seems impossible. IndyCar seems to have piqued the interest of many exploring opportunities outside of F1. The likes of Juan Pablo Montoya, Max Chilton, the late Justin Wilson, Conor Daly and, this year’s Indy 500 winner, Alexander Rossi all previously competed in F1 or its development series before transitioning to IndyCar. Additionally, Alonso previously stated a desire to compete in the Indy 500.
Alonso’s connection to Honda, and the marque’s search for an established and respected driver to join its IndyCar stable might make a move to IndyCar appealing to the Spaniard. The physical nature of driving an IndyCar seems to fit Alonso perfectly with his commitment to fitness. The closeness of the competition also gives Fernando an outlet in which to demonstrate his abilities compared to those around him. A driver of Alonso’s caliber undoubtedly seeks such an opportunity to prove his superiority to other drivers.
Mark Webber’s endeavor into the WEC calls to Alonso also, however. Frequently the Australian beckons to Alonso via social media, calling him to compete in the WEC. Without question, any intelligent WEC team would find a seat for its team. Alonso’s made no secret of his desire to compete at LeMans. His current involvement in F1, which insists on conflicting with the legendary French race, blocks his ability to drive Mulsanne. On occasion, the IndyCar schedule interferes with LeMans but, unlike F1, IndyCar heads do not intend to obstruct its drivers from competing.
Collectively, IndyCar’s physicality, competition, and openness for allowing its drivers to race elsewhere seems a natural fit for Alonso should his 2017 lack the enjoyment he yearns. While many IndyCar teams may not hold the funds to secure Alonso’s talents, Alonso’s knack for competition and with a little help from Honda, the addition of Fernando Alonso to the 2018 IndyCar grid may not be such a surprise. Of course, for now, the thought remains little more than speculation and a shining example of optimism.
All Photos: Zach Wenzel