As I'm sure you've heard in the last few weeks, Fernando Alonso is leaving the Monaco Grand Prix to former teammate Jenson Button as he goes to head stateside for the Indy 500, perhaps the biggest race in all of America. Now many have questioned his decision and given a number of possible motives for why the Spaniard has made this call. Here at Rach F1 we give our take on why Alonso is competing at Indy and why this is his assault for greatness.
It all stems from one thing, the fictitious title of completing the Triple Crown of Motorsport. The Triple Crown is achieved by a driver by winning the three most prestigious motor races in the world, the Monaco Grand Prix, the Indianapolis 500 and the Le Mans 24 hours.
So far only Graham Hill has earned this status by winning all three events and Juan-Pablo Montoya has only got one stage left to win. Should Alonso take a victory this year then he too will join his old rival Montoya on two stages. An alternative where the F1 drivers championship is counted instead of the Monaco Grand Prix would put Jacques Villeneuve on two stages as well although this variation is often rejected.
The three events seem very separate in their nature so to group them is a sign of a great driver. Many fantastic sportscar drivers couldn't hack it in single-seaters at the level of F1 and Indycar and vice versa - just ask 2002 Toyota F1 driver Alan McNish.
Equally Sebastian Bourdais was a champ car legend (champ car being a former US single-seater series seen as an equal rival to the Indycar series), but struggled to break into the mound of F1 over this two-and-a-half seasons for Toro Rosso. The fact these events are so different in nature is however the ultimate test of a great driver to master all classes and earn the Triple Crown.
Between 1950 and 1960 the Indy 500 was a part of the F1 seasons. Despite this they parted ways for 1961. Furthermore the Monaco Grand Prix has been run alongside it's US equivalent since 1987. This has since prevented a driver from achieving both feats in the same calendar year.
So why now for Alonso to move? Well he has said for a number of years his desire to win a third world championship. Despite his obvious ability he still remains a two-time world champion and his career is nearer its end than the beginning, with many believing this season will in fact be his swan song in F1.
But even if he does stay on for more seasons, McLaren look nowhere near achieving success, not as a Honda-powered team. And with Alonso facing the fact he is not going to be in the right seat to challenge for another title why would he stick around to sit in the mid-pack? This is why now is the right time to win one of the most prestigious races in the world and get a much firmer grip on the triple crown and thus seal his legacy.
So what will be left? A win at Le Mans. Alonso is talented enough to do it especially with the right team around him. Sports cars are less physical than F1 so he can afford to do that after a few years. Indy however is much tougher on the body and the window for him to achieve is ever closing. Despite this Fernando will be heavily cheered on by the F1 community despite effectively fraternising with the enemy.
One of the most popular faces in F1 will be missed in Monaco but will be respected by all his experienced compatriots in America.
by Matthew Gannon