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“Two F1 world cham­pi­onships are in no way just re­wards for Alonso’s tal­ent”

Top Gear (UK) - - COLUMNS -

Can some­one please tell me what the up­side is for Fer­nando Alonso to miss the op­por­tu­nity of scor­ing pos­si­ble points at the Monaco GP, and race at the Indy 500 in­stead? He’s tak­ing huge risks, both rep­u­ta­tional and safety-wise, chas­ing around an oval with only four cor­ners, when we all know that where he ex­cels is on tight, twisty, fast tracks. For me, he shouldn’t be do­ing it.

So what’s in it for him? He’s look­ing at a ca­reer where two world cham­pi­onships is in no way just re­wards for his tal­ent. To be fair, he never would have thought McLaren could be trawl­ing the dregs of a bar­rel so badly as they cur­rently are. It’s ap­palling, McLaren should be ashamed that it’s in a po­si­tion where the car didn’t even make the start­ing line in Sochi. It’s crazy. It’s one dis­as­ter af­ter an­other.

Given his sit­u­a­tion, you can see why try­ing to win the Indy 500, and maybe one day Le Mans – em­u­lat­ing Gra­ham Hill – is some light re­lief for him. But can he ac­tu­ally win it? Of course he can, he has the tal­ent to do so, but his skills are more suited to places like Spa and Suzuka – tracks that re­quire deep brak­ing, quick di­rec­tion changes and plan­ning your exit out of a corner – at Indy the ex­act op­po­site ap­plies. You have steep bank­ing, you’ve got no run-of and you’ve got to keep the speed of the car up. He must have looked at the past and seen that Nigel Mansell went there and won the cham­pi­onship, but then Mansell com­mit­ted him­self to that cham­pi­onship for a full sea­son. This is a com­pletely difer­ent thing. And why give up on Monaco of all places? We all know it has a habit of be­ing wet, and power isn’t so much of a fac­tor. I don’t un­der­stand how the man­age­ment agreed to let their star driver go of and drive for some­body else. If I was the boss I cer­tainly wouldn’t have al­lowed it. In F1 he knows who to look out for – who the wild guy in the pack is – and can plan his moves ac­cord­ingly. At the Indy 500, he doesn’t have that; he’s ar­riv­ing for a one-of race. Of course he has to learn the track and is go­ing there to test, which is sen­si­ble, un­like his one-race re­place­ment, Jen­son But­ton, who thinks he can drive this new McLaren car in a sim­u­la­tor then go and com­pete at Monaco, which I don’t agree with. But that’s a sep­a­rate is­sue. Gone are the days when some­one could go from Gaelic foot­ball to play­ing for Manch­ester United, as was the case with Kevin Mo­ran in the Seven­ties. Pro­fes­sion­al­ism, ft­ness and prepa­ra­tion is on a difer­ent level now; the sport has moved on and it’s im­pos­si­ble to re­con­nect with rac­ers of the past, like the late John Sur­tees – a world cham­pion on two wheels and four. In my opin­ion, these are tar­gets that are no longer rel­e­vant, sen­si­ble or likely. Do I see him at McLaren next year? Ac­tu­ally I don’t, but where would he go? Red Bull? No. Back to Fer­rari? Not if Vet­tel stays. Mercedes? There’s no chance at the mo­ment. That only leaves Re­nault. He could quit F1 and go and drive in sports cars, but hon­estly I don’t see that ei­ther. Which­ever way you cut it, the sit­u­a­tion isn’t good for him at the mo­ment, but he has to ap­por­tion blame for his plight on him­self and his man­age­ment for the hole he fnds him­self in.

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