It’s been a pretty crazy week for Fernando Alonso.
The two-time world champion announced on Tuesday that he will leave McLaren at the end of the season and “move on” from driving in Formula One, stepping away as one of the greatest to ever compete in the racing series. But it doesn’t appear that the 37-year-old is ready to give up driving just yet, as rumors of his next move continue to swirl.
Over the course of his 17 seasons in F1, the Spanish native amassed 32 wins, 22 pole positions and 97 podiums, with nine races still to go this season. In 2005, Alonso became the then-youngest driver to win a world championship, following it up with a repeat performance for Renault in 2006, though he has also been on the other side, finishing runner-up three times, most of which were by the slimmest of margins.
“After 17 wonderful years in this amazing sport, it’s time for me to make a change and move on,” Alonso said in a statement on Tuesday. “I have enjoyed every single minute of those incredible seasons and I cannot thank enough the people who have contributed to make them all so special. Let’s see what the future brings; new exciting challenges are around the corner. I’m having one of the happiest times ever in my life but I need to go on exploring new adventures.”
As racing fans around the world wait and see what’s next for Alonso, all indications seem to be that he might wind up joining the Verizon IndyCar Series full-time in 2019, though it’s all purely speculative at this point. On Wednesday, word got out that Alonso is expected to test a Honda-powered Andretti Autosport Dallara D12 sometime early next month to gauge his interest in driving it on a road course. It won’t be just one test, however, but multiple tests in the days following the September 2 Portland Grand Prix and while no one is certain where, Barber Motorsports Park was mentioned as a suggestion, according to RACER Magazine’s Marshall Pruett, who broke the story Wednesday.
This won’t be Alonso’s first IndyCar experience. Back in 2017, the F1 driver elected to forego the Monaco Grand Prix to compete in the Indianapolis 500, driving for Andretti Autosport in a McLaren-branded vehicle. After several practice sessions throughout the month of May, the 500 was an impressive outing for Alonso, who looked poised to challenge for victory and led for 27 laps but, with 21 laps remaining, his Honda engine gave out and put an end to his day but earned him a standing ovation from the crowd. The overall experience for both the driver and racing series appeared to be a success.
But what could Alonso’s potential transition to IndyCar mean for both sides?
For Alonso, it’s a shot at racing immortality, as a winner of the Triple Crown of Motorsport.
The Triple Crown is an unofficial title given to a driver who wins three races – the Monaco Grand Prix, 24 Hours of Le Mans and the Indianapolis 500. Alonso checked off the first race, the Monaco Grand Prix, back in 2006 and just this year he won the 24 Hours of Le Mans alongside Sébastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima. And with one more race to check off, it could be a driving factor in his decision. Only one driver has ever been able to pull of the feat and that was Graham Hill, adding the last piece to the puzzle, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, back in 1972. In the history of motorsport, 19 drivers have competed in all three races and have won at least one race but only seven have won at least two of the races – Juan Pablo Montoya and Alonso are the only active drivers to win two.
On the other side of things, Alonso joining IndyCar would undoubtedly go a long way in providing the series with a boost in popularity, considering the Spaniard’s extensive following. And just as it brought an even bigger spotlight to the Indy 500 back in 2017, Alonso would bring more of an audience to the race, with people looking to catch a glimpse of potential history in the making. Keep in mind, IndyCar starts a new television contract with NBC Sports next season, so it’s perfect timing. But what do the current crop of IndyCar drivers think about potentially facing Alonso on a regular basis in 2019?
“I don’t know more than anyone else but, for sure, we as drivers talk about that,” Spencer Pigot told Autoweek this week. “I think it would be cool if he were in IndyCar. We’ll see. I think he has lots of options and if he were to come race with us over here, I think that would be great. That’s the way I look at it. It would be a huge positive for the series if he came over as well as everyone else in the championship as well, the teams, drivers and sponsors.”
If Alonso joins IndyCar it will be an additional car to the series, rather than subtract one – which simply means that he presents no threat of anyone directly losing a spot. Alonso transitioning to IndyCar seems like a win for almost everyone involved and it could be a defining moment for the sport, one with a positive impact felt for several years.