Q: Say Alonso does confirm with IndyCar for 2019 and possibly beyond. Do you think that with his international fan base that it could make it easier for IndyCar to find a title sponsor, knowing that there would most likely be significantly more eyeballs on IndyCar for 2019? That being said, if Alonso does come, hopefully that will bring more fans over to IndyCar and give it even more of a boost to find a title sponsor already.
Jon From Cleveland
RM: It can’t hurt, but Fred’s presence in 2017 didn’t do much for American TV ratings at Indianapolis. I think his impact will be at the box office and international TV ratings.
Q: The idea that Alonso is coming to IndyCar has got me wondering whether we are going to suffer another humiliation along the lines of the one we suffered when their champion came over here and won the championship, and our champion went over there, whined, and quit. At least no worry about the latter, yet :) But here’s my question. I was at the 500 that year, and I’ve always thought Mansell got screwed by a phantom caution in the last few laps. I thought officials did it because they knew, as everyone does, that the F1 boys cannot do a rolling restart and they didn’t want Mansell to win. I thought the restart was fair, under our rules, but the caution was not. What was it for, anyway? “Debris”. I guess, but I can’t recall seeing any, at the track or on ABC. Wonder if you agree?
RM: The F1 champion comes to one of the two best teams in CART in 1993 and wins five races – how is that humiliating? Four of them were on ovals, so if anything, it made CART’s stars look good by beating him on road courses and street circuits. Michael went to a so-so McLaren with limited testing and certainly had his struggles, but Senna supported him and they were very close in the only testing they were able to do. USAC wasn’t smart enough to stage any yellows, and they didn’t like Penske any more than they did Paul Newman and Carl Haas. But that bogus Lyn St. James tow-in cost Mansell the victory.
Q: Robin how much fun/work has it been running down the Alonso story? And have you been contacted by the European press looking for information on IndyCar?
Wayne Peters, Sault Ste Marie, Canada
RM: It’s always fun to chase something with the impact Alonso will have, and even more fun is listening to everybody lie about it (except Michael Andretti). Chris Medland is RACER’s F1 writer and he stays on top of everything over there, and I chat with Nigel Roebuck about Fred, but other than texts to Zak Brown, not much contact with anyone across The Pond.
Q: Well, here we go. Silly season has gone to ludicrous season, possibly even gone full-on Spaceballs-plaid season by the time your next Mailbag hits. Alonso out of F1 and to “test” at Barber. Please. It’s only a test for him to see what areas of his fitness he needs to work on, for comparisons in simulators, and maybe to snap chat pics of the motorcycles in the Barber museum to Vettel to make him jealous (“Britten, yeah? Good bike to ride?”). We all know he’s coming to IndyCar. I love that you ended last week with Steve from Denver’s comments about F1 drama. Perfect foreshadowing. Clearly it’s the biggest news in IndyCar in …. well when? Nigel Mansell? I truly love your knowledge of the sport, and besides the ‘Stache, the split, and unfortunately of course, death of drivers, has there ever been an announcement as big as this? And if so, where would you put it in your history of the series? And… OK, do you think Leigh Diffey can pull this off in one breath: “Here’s Alonso debuting in his Kimoa-Harding Racing Presented by McLaren in Partnership with Andretti Autosports Powered By Chevrolet IndyCar!”
Jason from Worcester, MA
RM: I think it will be the biggest story since Mansell. Maybe not quite as celebrated since ‘ol Nige was the reigning F1 king, but I think Alonso’s presence will raise TV numbers, attendance and media coverage. And his enthusiasm and personality alone will be a huge asset for commercials and promotions – providing, of course, IndyCar and IMS are smart enough to spend money and use him.
Q: I don’t understand Tony Stewart’s comments about attempting the Indy 500 “cold turkey”. My gosh, he is driving 50 sprint events so far this year. Doesn’t that give you the skills to figure out the new IndyCar a bit? Hell, two years ago Alonso did it cold turkey, even having never run on an oval, and he was impressive during the race and a true threat until mechanical failure. What gives with Stew? He has done more turning right to go left, and can certainly handle a slippery car as well as anybody. The thought of a Stewart vs Alonso battle between two guys with such raw talent back in cars they don’t regularly drive is intriguing. That alone would sell some tickets and move the needle a bit at Indy.
RM: Driving a winged sprint car on a dirt track doesn’t prepare anyone for an IndyCar at 225 mph around IMS, and Alonso is in a twitchy, high-powered F1 car all the time, so no comparison. Now Stew is one of the best-ever on four wheels and I think he could get comfortable with a week of practice, but all he’s ever told me was nobody can show up “cold turkey” once a year and be competitive, so what’s changed? He doesn’t want to run 15th, but as great as he was, I think it’s too tough a task and I don’t think he’ll do it. Eighteen years out of a car that was planted to today’s IndyCar? That’s asking too much.