No, It’s Not a Surprise at All: Alonso @ Indy 500

Not a good look for the two time Formula 1 world champion

It wasn’t long ago when Fernando Alonso was leading the pack at the Brickyard. And it was no surprise when the Honda engine powering his Andretti-tuned Dallara blew up and relegated the Spaniard to a DNF at the Indy 500.

There was much anticipation for this year’s running of the race, with McLaren supposedly utilizing this opportunity to gauge a full time entry into the US-based open wheel series in addition to continuing their association with the two-time F1 champion.

But as with most things McLaren as of late, Alonso suffered a series of mishaps which prevented him from having another shot at the Borg Warner trophy. Think Robin Miller’s article on Racer.com summed up – politely – what happened. Lack of experience, humility and time. Yep.

(By the way, please support Racer.com – it’s run by some dear long-time friends in the business – Paul and Bill – both of whom are lifelong gear heads truly true to the game)

Here’s what we think Fernando should do to improve his chances of winning motorsport’s “triple crown”:

  1. End the silly association / relationship with McLaren – since the ousting of Ron Dennis, the Woking operation has been, basically, a shit show. Zak Brown has no idea what he’s doing. And what the hell is the purpose of Gil de Ferran collecting a paycheck as “sporting director”? Why let Mc:Laren’s indecision and lack of commitment prevent you from Indy success?
  2. Race Indycar full time – Alonso is arguably one of the best drivers of his generation, but even he needs some time to acclimate to a new car, new form of racing, etc. He’s already a champion in F1 and WEC. Nothing left to prove in those series.
  3. Win the Indy 500 and the Indycar championship while you’re at it – it’s hard to fathom Alonso NOT doing well in Indycar. And surely, it’s going to be great for ratings – bringing his GLOBAL fanbase to Indycar – and i’m sure he can bring heaps of sponsorship dollars with him. So why not someone like Roger Penske sign him to a full ride?
  4. Then go win Dakar. Why not add yet another memento to what must be a HUGE trophy case at the Museo Y Circuito Fernando Alonso?

Tobacco Advertising in Formula 1

Fernando Alonso in the Renault R25
Ayrton Senna in the Williams FW16
Ayrton Senna in the McLaren MP4/4
Michael Schumacher in the Ferrari F2002
David Courthard in the McLaren MP4/14
Ayrton Senna in the Lotus Honda 99T

Just take a look at those gorgeous F1 cars from years past. My first memories of Formula 1 go back to 1988 in the old turbocharged era, when those 1.5L V6 engines were producing an excess of 1,000 horsepower. Oh yeah… cast iron blocks, 9:1 compression ratio and so on. Sorry, I went off on a tangent there.

So what do you see when looking at all the racecars above? Sure, lots of Senna but what else? Simply, there were all sponsored by a tobacco company. Marlboro, West, Mild Seven, Camel, Rothmans and many more. And it’s in this commercial era where we’ve had some of the best racing in memory and the most radical rate of development and innovation.

Based on “health & safety” concerns, tobacco advertising was banned from Formula 1 in 2006, effective with the start of the 2007 season. it effectively halted the biggest stream of sponsorship dollars to the sport and left teams scrambling to find new title (or otherwise) sponsors.

Last year, Ferrari tried to get around this advertising ban by integrating Phillip Morris’ Mission Winnow “initiative.” Even after going through their website, I still have no effin’ clue what it is that they do. Interestingly enough, PM has never stopped being a Ferrari sponsor. They just couldn’t use any of the livery space on the car. The Australians apparently weren’t very happy about this ploy, as Ferrari has been forced to remove Mission Winnow branding from the car for the upcoming Australian GP.

Wait…! What about the other “sin product” that’s been given free reign over the years to advertise as much as they want? Johnnie Walker, Martini, Heineken, Molson, Foster’s, Labatt’s, Chandon, Singha, Kingfisher. What’s taking so damn long for the same talking heads to address banning or limiting advertising by alcohol producers? Hell, Heineken is the title sponsor for the Chinese and Italian Grands Prix in 2019. And Johnnie Walker is the title sponsor for the Belgian Grand Prix. How the hell does this make sense?

But it’s not just tobacco and alcohol companies that are “killing people.” Let’s take a look at the general records of current Formula 1 sponsors:

And this isn’t even the whole list! What about all those tech companies, such as Lenovo and HP, making their computers through vendors like Foxxconn… who pay their employees the equivalent of $200 US per month… indentured servitude. Suicides. These don’t count, right?

You may counter that the companies above aren’t directly killing people like cigarettes. That it’s false equivalency. On the contrary, all of these companies are doing real damage to the global society at large, directly or indirectly. Why should they be given a pass when it comes to advertising in F1? How is it okay to spill hundreds of millions of crude oil into the ocean which starts an extremely dangerous chain reaction from contaminating sea life (and birds too!), destroying ecosystems, YOU eating that contaminated seafood and eventually getting cancer.

I am NOT a fan of smoking in any shape or form. I find it disgusting. I WAS a smoker for 10 years but I quit cold turkey almost 9 years ago. It stinks and makes me sick. But it’s completely wrong for the “elites” at the WHO to determine that tobacco advertisers can’t advertise in F1, yet plenty of other industrial and consumer brands, that kill just as effectively, can go wherever and do whatever they want. It’s a farce.

So THIS is Racing in America?

Might as well call this the Daytona Demolition 500

Wow. I’ve seen some bad crashes as races, including the 1998 Belgian Grand Prix where most of the field was decimated on the downhill toward Eau Rouge. But I have NEVER seen something as ridiculous as what happened at the 2019 NASCAR Daytona 500. Straight up amateur hour at best, with MULTIPLE pile ups caused by one “I-only-know-how-to-turn-left” jackass after another. I have no sympathy for this racing series, the fans (seriously… why don’t you follow Indy Car or Formula E instead??!) and the drivers. Is it any surprise that NASCAR’s popularity has plummeted?

What If Honda…

The boys at Motorsport.com + Giorgio Piola have yet again done a fine job dissecting a new F1 car launch. Namely, the new Red Bull Racing RB15. From what has been reported, Max Verstappen came away smiling about the new car. Really? Are my greatest fears coming true? That Honda has finally managed to create an iteration of the hybrid that can perform competitively with the likes to Mercedes and Ferrari (and Renault, to a certain extent)? McLaren will be pounding the ground in disgust and anger if this is the case in 2019.