When Formula One driver and double world champion Fernando Alonso announced last month that he would skip the Monaco grand prix to drive in the Indianapolis 500, it ignited a storm of interest from racing fans around the world. “Fernando Alonso” and “Indianapolis” have surged to the top of Google’s search analytics. At the request of Motorsport.com, Sketchfab created this awesome 3D interactive model of the car Alonso will drive at the Brickyard. Click on the image to rotate the model in three dimensions while learning about the chassis, the engine, the gearbox, and other details of the car.
Fernando Alonso Is Realistic About His Chances
Alonso is realistic about his chances in the famed Indianapolis 500. “I think I have a lower percentage than some of my opponents do,” he said after the Spanish grand prix in Barcelona last weekend. “I don’t have the experience of oval racing, I don’t have experience of fighting in traffic or last lap techniques or the little tricks. But, at the same time, the level of sophistication we have in F1 is higher than IndyCar.
“So together with McLaren, we will go there with some people, a group of engineers, helping Andretti’s team and maybe thanks to this different approach, the more scientific approach, I will have something extra. I have a lower [chance of winning], but it is true that it is a race that anyone can win. There is a luck factor, yellow flags, and safety cars. But even if it is 1 per cent better, it is worth trying.”
Formula One Technology May Give Alonso A Boost
What sorts of things is Fernando Alonso bringing with him from the world of Formula One? It started with passing the rookie driving test. “I told the engineers to put me a reference lap from last year [on the steering wheel] that was 210 mph,” he says. “So for the first phase I tried to be two or three tenths slower than that reference lap. In the next I tried to be two or three tenths quicker than that reference lap, and then I tried to be around one second quicker than that reference lap.”
Formula One and Indianapolis have had a long and often hostile relationship. In 1965, British Formula One driver Jim Clark drove a rear engine Lotus to victory in field dominated by much larger and more powerful front engine cars and changed racing at Indianapolis forever. Former Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone once dismissed Indianapolis as a “cow town.” Michael Andretti, who heads the highly successful Andretti Racing operation today, once drove for McLaren, the team Alonso drives for today.
The high banked curves at either end of the Indianapolis oval are vestigial reminders of a bygone era when the conventional wisdom in racing was that it was impossible for a tire to exceed 1 G of lateral loading. At last weekend’s race in Spain, the drivers were subjected to more than 5 Gs of lateral force in several corners.
Today, knowing how to use the banking to increase speed is an essential skill for any oval racer — a skill that Alonso clearly lacks. “Definitely it’s a good test for me to drive there. I will learn many things. In terms of technology and sophistication, F1 is in another level. So most of my chances will be to use that sophistication that we are used to driving with here, implementing there. I need to keep it secret!”
A Lesson For Formula One?
The fuss over Fernando Alonso driving in the Indy 500 should be a huge hint to Formula One. For too long, the sport has emphasized the cars over the drivers. But the fans identify strongly with drivers. New commercial rights holder Liberty Media is taking steps to bring the drivers out of the shadows and make them more accessible to the fans, which is a very smart marketing move.
IndyCar now uses a twin turbocharged V-6 engine. There are rumors that Formula One will transition to a twin turbocharged V-6 engines in 2020. That raises the intriguing possibility that the two racing series could harmonize their rules packages so drivers and teams could compete in both series. Perhaps there could even be a real world championship series at the end of each season.? I know….too much to hope for. All motor racing formats are struggling to keep fan interest in a world crammed with digital entertainment options. More competition between the two series would be good for both.