F1 Racing - - CON­TENTS - Damien Smith Euro­pean ed­i­tor-in-chief

Alonso’s shock an­nounce­ment

What’s your take on Fer­nando Alonso and his crack at the In­di­anapo­lis 500, at the ex­pense of miss­ing – of all races – F1’s sig­na­ture grand prix?

Do you ad­mire him for not only show­ing the in­tel­li­gence to see the big­ger rac­ing pic­ture beyond the blink­ered F1 world and tak­ing on one of the world’s great sport­ing spec­ta­cles, but also pos­sess­ing the gump­tion to put him­self on the line at an event that is both dif­fi­cult to mas­ter from a cold start and still gen­uinely danger­ous? Or have you de­cided that miss­ing Monaco is a sure sign he’s lost his mojo, par­tic­u­larly since this year’s race most likely of­fers McLaren-Honda their best chance of spring­ing a half-de­cent re­sult? Per­haps you’d go even fur­ther and brand Alonso a traitor to the cause? If you haven’t al­ready (see p91), let us know how you judge it. We’d love to hear from you.

Mean­while, at the sharp end of F1, the duel be­tween Mercedes’ Lewis Hamil­ton and Fer­rari’s Se­bas­tian Vet­tel is brew­ing nicely, and here too there’s a welcome in­gre­di­ent of the un­ex­pected. For­mula 1, pre­dictable? Not right now it isn’t.

We fo­cus on the driver in the red cor­ner this month and pon­der his place in the pan­theon. How odd that a man who won four straight ti­tles should still be doubted. As An­drew Ben­son re­minds us on p26, the num­bers tell us that he’s one of the all-time greats – and yet still the crit­ics mut­ter. Did the stars align at Red Bull to make Vet­tel ‘lucky’ – or has he earned the right to greater re­spect?

It has been in­ter­est­ing to note Hamil­ton’s re­gard for the Fer­rari man in the early rounds of 2017. At the height of the Red Bull era, Lewis made it clear that his en­thu­si­asm for Seb’s tal­ents was well un­der con­trol. Whether that was driven by a sliver of envy or a racer’s in­stinct for spot­ting gen­uine speed, Hamil­ton was far from the only one to ap­pear un­der­whelmed. Alonso and Mark Web­ber (who as team-mate and ri­val ad­mit­tedly had a clear agenda) were never mem­bers of the fan club ei­ther.

But in early 2017 mu­tual ap­pre­ci­a­tion sprouted be­tween a pair of F1 ti­tans who, some­how, have never faced each other in a con­sis­tent head-to-head over the course of a sea­son, de­spite in­hab­it­ing the same era (each took his bow at the pin­na­cle in 2007). The sports­man­ship, in place of the usual brinkman­ship, is re­fresh­ing, al­though we’re hardly go­ing out on a limb to pre­dict it won’t last through to Novem­ber. We’ve seen too much to con­sider them F1’s Fed­erer and Nadal and any­way, per­haps it’s only fair to ad­mit we wouldn’t mind a bit of nig­gle added to a two-han­der that looks set to join the long list of grip­ping duels from F1 history.

Then again, per­haps the el­e­ment of sur­prise will re­main and they will play nicely all the way to Abu Dhabi. What­ever – we’re hooked. The sum­mer and au­tumn of­fer tan­ta­lis­ing prom­ise.

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