McLaren driver Fernando Alonso will miss the Monaco Grand Prix to race at the Indy 500!
McLaren announced the news this morning that they will allow Fernando Alonso to miss the Monaco Grand Prix on the 28th May so that he can compete in the Indy 500 at Indianapolis. He will race a Honda-powered Andretti car, that will be rebranded as a McLaren, marking a return to Indy for the Woking outfit for the first time since 1979.
Going for the Triple Crown?
This is the clearest indication yet that Alonso intends to make good on a long held ambition to take a shot at the so called 'Triple Crown of Motorsport', that is, to win the Monaco Grand Prix, the Indy 500, and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Only 1 driver has ever managed to win all three: the legendary Graham Hill.
Apology from Honda?
While this is quite an unusual move from McLaren-Honda, could it be seen as a sort of apology to Alonso, who has been very critical of the car's performance this season. Allowing him to miss the Monaco GP, and to set him up with a Honda powered car, keeps Alonso sweet while also maintaining his ties to Honda. Unfortunately, this also seems to be an admission by Honda that they don't expect to be anywhere near the front by the time Monaco rolls around, otherwise I doubt they would have let him go.
Button to Return?
This obviously begs the question fo who will replace Alonso for Monaco? The easy choice would be to get Jenson Button back in the car. Although Button 'retired' at the end of last year, he is technically on a sabbatical, and remains with the team in an ambassadorial role. This would be the easiest choice for the team, but you have to wonder whther Jenson would be up for running round at the back at a race he has previously won back in 2009.
Alternatives could come from McLaren's Driver Academy, with Nyck de Vries and Lando Norris both waiting in the wings, but it would be a brave man at McLaren who would let a relatively inexperienced driver take a 2017 car round the streets of Monaco. Sounds like that could end up being quite expensive!
So how might Alonso get on at Indy? He is the first to admit he has never driven an Indy Car, or on an Oval, so you imagine his learning curve will be quite steep. However, if there is one driver you would bet on adapting quickly, it is Alonso.
He is in a good position going in to the race though, with both races so far in the 2017 Indy season being won by Honda power (what a difference to F1!), and with a spec chassis to work with, and if he can get up to speed quickly, he might just be in with a shot.