Keeping track of Fernando Alonso this silly season has been like watching “Inception” for the first time: Every time it’s seemingly obvious where he will end up, a new detail emerges that flips the situation on its head. This latest plot twist, however, could be the biggest one yet.
Alonso’s frustration with McLaren-Honda has increased exponentially as of late, but with no interest from top Formula One teams, the Spaniard is in a bind. Recent news out of the Verizon IndyCar Series, however, seemingly opens up new options for Alonso in 2018, both in the United States and in F1.
Andretti Autosport, despite speculation that CEO Michael Andretti had been courted by Chevrolet, is believed to have renewed its contract with Honda, RACER reported Monday, citing team sources. Should that be the case, it could give Alonso motivation either to return to McLaren in 2018, or pursue a full-time IndyCar drive with Andretti, which likely will have at least one vacant seat.
Although Honda still has lots of work to do on its power unit, McLaren’s ability to provide Alonso with a competitive chassis makes McLaren-Honda the best option for him in F1. The 36-year-old driver, however, is skeptical that the Japanese manufacturer’s can sort it out — and he has a propensity for bad career decisions — so he’s still talking to rival teams.
With Honda and Andretti extending their deal, though, a return to McLaren now looks a lot more attractive to Alonso. But why?
Because the relationship between McLaren, Honda and Andretti means that another year at Woking, England, would allow Alonso once again to embark on his quest for the triple crown. None of the teams that are vying for his talents will be capable of fighting for the world championship, so McLaren’s ability to secure Alonso an Indianapolis 500 entry is a big advantage.
In addition to opening doors for Alonso in F1, Andretti’s reported contract with Honda could present the two-time world champion with a path to IndyCar.
He previously said he wouldn’t rule out a full-time campaign in the American series in 2018, though at the time, many assumed it was highly unlikely. But he now has a potential in with a top IndyCar team, which is expected to have room for him.
Longtime Honda driver Takuma Sato apparently won’t return to Andretti next year, with RACER citing anonymous sources Saturday, claiming that Sato had signed with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. In addition to Sato, Andretti might also be without Alexander Rossi in 2018, as he reportedly is atop Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ shortlist.
If either one of those 2018 seats become available, we wouldn’t be surprised if Alonso heads stateside to race for Andretti. And if he doesn’t, then it probably will be because McLaren executive director Zak Brown has lured him back by promising him he’ll be on the grid for the 2018 Indy 500.
Thumbnail photo via Brian Spurlock/USA TODAY Sports Images
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