News Analysis: Fernando Alonso to run Indy 500, skip Monaco

What happened: Two-time Formula One world champion Fernando Alonso, sixth on the all-time F1 wins list with 32 Grand Prix victories, will skip Monaco to race in the Indianapolis 500 in May. He’ll drive a Honda-powered McLaren car run by Andretti Autosport.

What it means: A huge boost internationally for the Indy 500. An active F1 driver missing the biggest F1 race — which Alonso has won twice — to come drive at Indianapolis? That’s wild! It’s going to get a lot of attention around the world and will be quite a big story in motorsports from now through the race. Depending on how Alonso’s experience goes, it could pave the way for more famous drivers to try to the Indy 500 and raise the prestige level even further.

News value (scale of 1-10): Depends on where you’re reading this. It’s probably an 8 for international readers and a 6 if you live in the United States and only follow NASCAR. Alonso said in his view, the Indy 500 is “one of the most famous races on the global motorsport calendar, rivaled only by the Le Mans 24 Hours and the Monaco Grand Prix” and said he’d like to win the “Triple Crown” one day (which has only been achieved by Graham Hill, who raced in the 1960s). Of course, that perspective is different in the U.S., where even some race fans don’t know who Alonso is and may feel the Daytona 500 is just as big as the Indy 500. 

Questions: Can Alonso, who has never raced on a big oval (or any oval, perhaps), get up to speed quickly enough to be competitive? How much will this raise the international profile of the Indy 500, which was already coming off a ton of publicity with the 100th running? Is there anything NASCAR can do to counter this move for the Coca-Cola 600, which likely loses some of the media spotlight (Gordon? Stewart)?

Fernando Alonso speaks to reporters at a Shell-sponsored event in Austin before the 2014 race there. (Photo: Jeff Gluck)

16 Replies to “News Analysis: Fernando Alonso to run Indy 500, skip Monaco”

  1. “Can Alonso, who has never raced on a big oval (or any oval, perhaps), get up to speed quickly enough to be competitive?”

    Gosh I don’t know… Graham Hill, Juan Pablo Montoya, Hélio Castroneves and last year, Alexander Rossi were not noted for any great oval experience and yet were able to get up to speed in a reasonable length of time. In fact all four won on their first try and Alonso is driving for the same team that prepared Rossi’s 2016 winner.

  2. What a great score for Indy and the series in general. As a fan of all types of racing I’m glad to see this.

  3. This will be interesting to see how well he does. But I am a bit sad that he would go with Andretti making it a 6 car team for that team seems to be a bad idea. I remember last year Chip Ganassi tweeting to Alonso offering him a ride. Better team, better group to learn from especially with Dario being there why go with inferior when he could have had the best?

    1. Fernando Alonso is currently driving for McLaren/Honda in Formula 1.
      Neither McLaren or Honda would check off on Alonso driving for another manufacturer or engine provider.

      1. The Andretti team uses Honda power, but since Indy Car is a spec car series, all chassis are built by Dallara. Been 20 or 30 years since McLaren ran at Indy.

      2. Ganassi is back in Honda thia year ao he could have gone there. And in my opinion been in a better ride. Am I biased yes I love Ganassi especially Indy Car. But except for RHR who does Andretti have that is competitive? I say again Ganassi has Dario who would be a great driver coach for Alanso.

    2. Good point… 4 pure Andretti entries plus Rossi with Herta and now Jack Harvey with Shank. Upside is both Herta and Shank bring some excellent racing experience to the game. And spreading the costs for equipment over 6 teams rather than 2 or 3 should mean more funds available. Things like 4 post chassis dynos, shock dynos, CNC mills and lathes, autoclaves, 3D printers and several others are never used 24/7 by even a 4 car team.

      Plus, 5 teams for Andretti worked out OK last year… 1st and 2nd!

  4. As far as getting Gordon or Stewart to do something for the race, I think you’d be limited to them driving the pace car, but Gordon is a Chevy guy & Stewart is a Ford guy, while Charlotte is a Toyota track, so highly unlikely. There aren’t any big name Toyota drivers that people would care to see either, so I’m doubtful NASCAR can compete with this news unless they last minute switch the 600 to the Roval… hmmm…

  5. I’m guessing Mclaren and Honda put this together as pay back to Alonso for their lack of performance in F1. Alonso has been frustrated by the poor results so this may be a reward for his efforts?

  6. I saw this story break earlier, but I didn’t realize the signifance of it until I read this article. Excellent post! I appreciate you breaking it down for those like me who don’t specifically follow F1 but appreciate all motorsports in general.

  7. Isn’t one of the future engine specs F1 is playing around with close to the current Indy spec? Could that be a possible reason?

    I am just having a hard time understanding why an active driver would want to miss Monaco…

    1. There’s hardly a reason not to miss Monaco (IMHO) given the horrible McLaren Honda equipment that Alonso is stuck with. Monaco in particular is very difficult for passing, which eliminates much of the “driver premium” that Alonso is able to apply to other circuits.

    2. As a decades long F1 journalist pal said to me this week …. .Monaco is a point and squirt type of track and needless to say the McLaren is lacking in the squirt department.

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