McLaren/Alonso Split- Thoughts

Motorsport Magazine reports this morning that McLaren and Fernando Alonso have parted company. The separation is believed to be amicable.

“We have no plans to run him in any further F1 test sessions this year…He is free to pursue other opportunities in motorsport and we support him doing so,” a McLaren spokesman said.

Alonso has had an off and on relationship with McLaren since his first season with them in 2007, when he complained of the team giving preferential treatment to Lewis Hamilton. When he returned to McLaren for the  2015 season, Alonso complained loudly and often about the uncompetitive Honda engine.

This past May at Indianapolis Alonso and McLaren failed to qualify for the Indianapolis 500 after a series of missteps by the team.

Where does Alonso go from here? If he wants to pursue the triple crown Alonso will need to find an existing team. Will it need to be Chevy team? I’m not sure. it seemed Honda was less happy with McLaren than Alonso.  He will also need to bring a lot of money.

I believe his commitment to Toyota in WEC ends after this season as well.  Alonso has talked of racing in virtually every major series in the world, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him doing a bunch of one-offs. We might see him in the Daytona 500 next year as well as the Indianapolis 500.  Perhaps a couple more races with Wayne Taylor Racing are in the cards.

I would like to see  Alonso try a couple of Indycar road races, especially road America and Laguna Seca. While McLaren may eventually come to the NTT Indycar sreries full time, I see Alonso just running selected races.

We know wherever he races there will be crowds of fans and press following him.

Quick, Well, Day After, Thoughts- Day 2 Qualifying

The format did provide drama. James Hinchcliffe and Fernando Alonso had to wait until the final two qualifiers ran to see if they made the race.

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James Hinchcliffe pauses as he gets out of the car his Sunday run. He seems to be wondering if the time will be good enough.

Some of the old Bump Day flavor was back with rumors swirling about deals and shared parts and information. the rain delay may have had something to do with it, but it was a fun atmosphere.

Every 100 years, a driver from France wins the pole. That’s not good news for Sebastien Bourdais.

Qualifying Weekend Tweaks

For next year I would like to see Bump Day  be a timed period, say 90 minutes, for cars not in the race to make a maximum of three attempts to make the field.

As far as the Fast Nine, it is a dinosaur concept intended to be filler when there were only 33 cars. It may be good for television, but I think an extended Bump Day as I proposed would be a better use of that brief network TV window. Let the pole winner be the fastest qualifier on Saturday. That’s your Saturday TV drama.

Limit cars to three attempts per day.  Several cars went out to use runs as practice time. If teams have exclusive use of the track, it should be for a serious run.

Other Thoughts

I was surprised that the track didn’t open for practice in the middle of Saturday afternoon.

Even in defeat, Fernando Alonso was gracious enough to come to the media center with Gil DeFerran to discuss their week.

Yesterday I think was the first time I nave ever seen Sage Karam smile. He was more at ease in interviews than I’ve seen him after his run. His best comment, referring to Hinchcliffe and the stress of the last two days, “I’m surprised James hasn’t had a heart attack yet going through this two years in a row.”

The new sealant seems to help dry the track quicker, which would be a good thing on Race Day. I just hope we never have to find out on that day.

I’ve seen some people say this year’s qualifying was a good argument for guaranteed spots. I  think it was a better argument against it. Would have great stories like Dragonspeed and Juncos with guaranteed spots? It would be hard if more full time teams join the series.

I have never seen so little attention paid to who wins the pole. I didn’t mind it. I think the pole should be decided first, like on Saturday. The true story of qualifying is in the smaller teams who make the field, sometimes at the expense of a bigger team or champion driver.

Today’s Schedule

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Bronze badge holders have pit access today.

I will have a summary of the session later today.

 

 

Last Chance for Hinch and Alonso; Weather May Determine Pole

Today is the last chance  for popular drivers James Hinchcliffe and Frenando Alonso to get into the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500.  Both have had massive crashes this week.  Hinchcliffe’s crash yesterday could not have come at a worse time. The 2016 pole winner is on the verge of missing his second straight 500 and third since 2015. he also missed a week of practice in 2014 recovering from a concussion he suffered in the first Indycar Grand Prix.

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Will they make the race?

Alonso and McLaren have struggled since he crashed on Tuesday. Electrical issues have plagued the team. Yesterday each of Alonso’s five attempts followed the same pattern- two good laps followed by a significant drop in speed on the last two.  I think McLaren came here with the attitude that they would easily get into the field. They wanted to mostly do Indy on their own. The way the series is now, that is difficult. I would have thought with their budget that they would have had a better performance despite the accident.

Other drivers looking for one of the three open grid spots are Pato O’Ward, Kyle Kaiser, Sage Karam, and Max Chilton. If Alonso and Hinchcliffe succeed in qualifying for the race, only one of these four gets in.  I think Karam makes the race. He had a difficult day yesterday. J. R. Hildebrand drove his car Friday to make sure it was okay.

The forecast isn’t looking promising at the moment. Steady rain appears to be moving in around 10 am and may last most of the day.  In that event, the last row will be determined tomorrow and the Spencer Pigot will have won the pole.

It seems that each time the Speedway os series changes the qualifying format, an important day gets rained out. It would also be a shame to have a rainout of the NBC broadcast.

Back later this morning with an update on the weather and any time adjustments.

 

 

Day 2 Wrap-up

Photo: Felix Rosenqvist at the Indycar Grand Prix. Photo by Kyle McInnes

Felix Rosenqvist spun in turn two at 5:02. His car snapped as it appeared he caught the grass with his left front tire. He backed into the outside wall the went head on into the tire barrier on the inside.  His spinning car just missed clipping Will Power and Jack Harvey just missed running into Rosenqvist. He was checked and released from the infield medical center.

After just a few minutes of green flag running, the yellow flew for a track inspection. Another track inspection with seven minutes left, the track closed for the day.

Josef Newgarden’ s earlier time of 228. 856 held as the fastest of the day. Alexander Rossi was 34th quickest but had the fastest no tow speed.

Alonso talked to NBC Sports about his accident.

“It was understeer on the car, and even if I lifted the throttle on the entry of the corner, it was not enough, and I lost completely the front aero. The wall came too close and too quickly. Unfortunately, it happened today. We will lose a little bit of running time again. I’m sorry for the team, but we will learn and hopefully, we will come back stronger tomorrow. I’m disappointed and sad for the team and for the guys. We worked quite a lot on the car and definitely now it’s quite damaged, so I feel sorry for the team and for my mistake. We will learn from this and hopefully tomorrow we’re back on track and back stronger”

McLaren is repairing the primary car and also building the backup car. they will try both tomorrow and decide which car to qualify.

Notes

The F1 grid lines are slowly returning as the sealant lightens.

Newgarden said that like last year it is difficult to follow especially in a deep pack of cars. He thinks the race will be similar to last year, but it will depend on the temperature. A cooler day might see better racing than a warm day. Newgarden also noted that the team or other teams as well have not tried all the downforce and aero tools Indycar has made available this year.

Rossi said the team completed their checklist for today and then parked the car. He didn’t seem concerned about his speed ranking today and thought being first on the no tow list was irrelevant.

Toyota, Alonso Win; Wet 12 Hours of Sebring Next

Good morning from a very wet and rainy Sebring Raceway. The forecast calls for rain most of the day.

Late last night the first WEC 1000 miles of Sebring concluded in the rain. The yellow at the end didn’t change the outcome. The number 8 Toyota Gazoo, co driven by Fernando Alonso, won by a two lap margin over the team’s second car. The third place car was five laps down.

This is the second straight Weather Tech Championship race that will be affected by rain. We’ll see what happens. Hope to have a mid race update this afternoon.

The race will start on CNBC then switch to NBCSN at 3.

Sebring Update: Alonso Leads Early; Penske Takes 12 Hour Pole

Fernando Alonso and his Toyota Gazoo team have dominated the first 35 minutes of the 1,000 Miles of Sebring. The two car team occupied the front row and began lapping the field very quickly.

Cameron Wins Pole for Penske

The number 6 Penske Acura driven by Fane Cameron won the pole for tomorrow’s  12 Hours of Sebring. Team Joest car number 77 completes the front row.

In GTLM Porsche 911 won the pole and it’s teammate 912 starts second.In GTD Meyer Shank Racing number 86 will lead the group. The number 57 Shank car starts 6th in clasd.

Full qualifying story tomorrow along with a wrap up of the 1,000 mile race.

Sebring 2019 – A Two World Show

It’s called Super Sebring. The 67th running of the oldest sportscar race in the United States will also feature a 1,000 mile race featuring the World Endurance Championship series. The WEC cars look similar to the IMSA machines with a similar class structure. Most of the drivers who ran at the Rolex 24 will participate this weekend, although some will be in different cars.

The prime example of a driver switching to not only a different car, but the other series, is Fernando Alonso. Alonso was part of the winning Wayne Taylor Racing entry at Daytona. This weekend he drives for Toyota Gazoo in the WEC, his regular job. Toyota Gazoo is the top team in the WEC.

Indycar newcomer Ben Hanley’s Dragonspeed car will race in the WEC series Friday. Teams are not allowed to participate in both races. Jordan King, who drove the road course schedule for Ed Carpenter Racing in 2018 and will enter the 500 with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, will also drive the WEC event in LMP2 car 37.

Chip Ganassi’s LMGTE Ford entry for Friday has two driver slots listed TBA. There is speculation Ford may leave the GT program at the end of this season.

Indycar Drivers Return to Rolex Teams

Five Indycar regulars who drove in the Rolex 24 return to the same teams for the 67th 12 hours of Sebring. Alexander Rossi will drive car 7 and Simon Pagenaud car 6 for Roger Penske’s Acura team.

Sebastien Bourdais in car 66 and Scott Dixon in 67 again join Chip Ganassi Racing’s Ford GTLM squad.

Colton Herta will again co drive car 25 for the Rahal BMW team.

Kyle Kaiser again drives for Juncos in car 50.

The Meyer Shank car 57 continues its all female lineup with Katherine Legge, Christina Neilsen, and Ana Beatriz. The team was disappointed this week to learn they did not receive an invitation to Le Mans.

The Disappearing Class

There are just two LMP2 entrants for the 12 hour. The class had just four cars at Daytona. As I wondered then, why does this class exist as a separate group? They qualify with the DPi cars and receive little recognition during the race. IMSA very much wants four classes, but they need to have a plan in place to develop the fourth class.

I am eager to see how this double header weekend works out. It will be interesting to compare the cars of the two series. I expect the WEC cars to be faster, but the IMSA racing to be better.

Watch for Updates Here

I will be posting updates all weekend, beginning with WEC qualifying tomorrow. Some will be quite brief.  I will have my Quick Thoughts column after each race. The WEC race ends at midnight, so look for that column Saturday morning (not early).

On Monday my full weekend wrap-u will be on Wildfire Sports.