Two Birds, One Car
Yesterday, two time F1 Champion Fernando Alonso in his effort to actually finish a race at some point this year did his first test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to prepare for his entry into the Indy 500. In response, IndyCar and multiple media outlets live streamed every moment of his rookie test, including downtime in the pits and his post-test press conference. Few other "rookies" get this type of coverage. Before the day was done, Indianapolis would be down by two in the bird population (Video at the bottom of post).
It is an exciting moment for American racing as we all get to witness someone take a chance and show up to other people’s playground and take a shot at a race he has never experienced. It also a chance to raise the profile of F1 and get more fans overall into racing and that is a good thing. It will add to the spectacle of the Indy 500. Left out of the hype fest was that this decision came about due to the utter failure of the McLaren-Honda team to produce a F1 car that can even finish a race. McLaren-Honda needs some good PR and this is it.
Along with this feel good sports story comes a massive amount of media hype that is geared (no pun intended) to the challenge that he will face driving an IndyCar. Racing media outlets hyperventilated with all day coverage bordering on the absurd as if he is about to scale Mount Everest. The comments were all focused on the challenge he is facing as he takes on the biggest test of his racing career. By the end of the day he would hit 222.548mph and complete 83 laps. Commenters, other team officials, and other drivers all talked about the technical aspects of IndyCars and the steep learning curve Alonso would face, forgetting that he spent his career driving the most advanced race cars ever built.
This hype, whether good or bad misses out on some key facts. Alonso is a two time F1 world champion. Two titles won during the era of Schumacher, won against Schumacher on-track pushing to the edge. We must admit, we were not fans of Alonso during his early years, but we never had doubts about his talent. Alonso who would drive for Ferrari during one of its worst periods and consistently push the car to the front when it had no business being there. This is not a case of a driver moving from a one-off make series to the 200 plus MPH Brickyard. This is a guy showing up to the school yard to take some lunch money. While Alonso was quoted numerous times discussing the challenges that any driver would face when trying something new, the truth came out in a quote that didn’t get the same level of hype.
"Hopefully we can put some laps now and start feeling the car a little bit because at the moment the car is driving itself. I'm not driving the car.”
That’s right, even with the breathless repeated mantra’s of how hard it will be, he reveals un-intentionally, that he hasn’t even pushed the envelope yet. Irrespective of how it all turns out, we know that Alonso could put a Pontiac Grand Prix in the top ten.