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Q: I was really looking forward to Alonso doing a full season and would have rooted him on. Frankly, I’ve changed my mind. Alonso said he knew back in August that he had no intention of running IndyCar full-time. If this is the case, why would he waste time and resources to test an IndyCar on a road course in September? He said if McLaren was going to run the full season, it would have been with someone else because again, he wasn’t interested in doing it in 2019. These statements sound like someone who’s not interested in building bridges. If anything, he’s burning bridges. I’m sure things happened behind the scenes, but he sounds like it was all his decision. I don’t buy it. I think if he does another one-off Indy 500 next year, it could hurt IndyCar in the long run. Yes, it would create short-term buzz for the sport. But, if he finishes in the top five, it will give F1 drivers more excuses to say IndyCar is a sub-par series. A full season would truly test Alonso and show the rest of the world that IndyCar is one of the most competitive and challenging series out there.
Mark from Bethlehem, PA
RM: I think I said this a few weeks ago, but I don’t think Alonso knows what he wants to do. He told Michael Andretti he wasn’t interested in cherry-picking Indy and a couple other races – he wanted to run the full season. The mechanics on his test at Barber said he was enthusiastic, so I have no idea why he either changed his mind or was just playing people. He seems like a stand-up guy. But how he runs at Indianapolis didn’t diminish the series any more than when Nigel Mansell won the title in 1993. And Rubens Barrichello would be a good sounding board if anybody thinks IndyCar is sub-par.
Q: So let me get this straight. Fernando gushes about IndyCar and the Indy 500 for the last year and a half. Announces he’s done with F1, and then promptly tests an IndyCar on a road course, leading everyone and their brother to basically guarantee he’s coming full time next year. And now, “it was never in my plans to race full time IndyCar next year.” Seriously dude? If that’s the case, then why didn’t you say that months and months ago? What’s the deal, Robin? Is this a case of ego where he just loved to stir the pot and get all this attention? Because he really lost me, and probably a lot of other IndyCar fans. Does he ever plan on coming full-time? I think he’s making a mistake. He could have revitalized his career and shown his true talent in IndyCar.
Ryan, Dayton, Ohio
RM: A friend of mine at McLaren said that Fernando is an attention junky and nobody was paying any attention to him in F1 anymore, so this was a good way to get back in the headlines. I don’t know if I believe that, but as much fun as he had at Indy in 2017, I was convinced he was serious about running here full-time some day. He could have revitalized his career, but his true talent was shown years ago when he won two F1 championships.
Q: Just read Chris Medland’s article about Alonso “opening the crossover door.” Sounds like an opportunity for IndyCar to organize an open test at Indy for F1 drivers (and maybe select others) in the near future, presumably scheduled around one of the F1 visits to North America. What do you think?
Kirby K., Indianapolis
RM: I love the idea of F1 and IndyCar drivers swapping rides for a televised test – let Lewis, Max and Sebastian run Texas on the oval and put Dixie, Power and RHR in an F1 car at COTA. But I think the IndyCar guys would be more receptive. The JPM/Jeff Gordon trade-off at IMS was a hit, and so was Hamilton and Tony Stewart at The Glen. But throwing in an oval might scare off some of the big names, not sure. But I would like to see it.
Q: Hi Robin, I think we need an update. With Ed Jones taking the half seat with ECR, does that mean we half three seats to fill with approximately 11 known drivers interested? A few weeks ago it was looking like 28 cars on the high end and 26 on the low end, but now 26 on the high end and 24 on the low end from my calculations. Any word on what type of rehab Wickens needs in Colorado that Indianapolis does not have?
RM: You’ve got the second seat at Carlin (still not convinced Charlie might have it for at least half the season) and SPM (I think there’s a mob after that one) plus Ricardo Juncos, so your math is correct. Robby went to Denver because Craig Hospital specializes in spinal cord injuries.
Q: Enjoy reading your Mailbag each week for insight and history, keep it coming! It has been just over a month since the season finale at Sonoma, and since then we have seen a number of the driver announcements (Coyne, ECR, Harding) already for 2019. Thought I remember reading back a couple of weeks ago in your Mailbag to stay tuned for another big announcement?
Curious as to what your outlook would be on the following teasers that we have heard over the last couple of months from teams as far as car counts for 2019, and who might be driving. Schmidt opening? Carlin Racing opening? Also, third car at Carlin Racing? Juncos Racing (partial season) opening? Dreyer & Reinbold fielding a car for the 500 or a partial season? DragonSpeed partial season? Rahal/Letterman/Lanigan fielding a third car?
Rod, San Jose, Calif
RM: I would think Jordan King and Conor Daly are pursuing SPM’s open seat, while we’ve heard Marcus Ericsson is interested in Carlin. Juncos is open to as many races as can be funded, while Dennis Reinbold told me a few weeks ago they were interested in going full-time but only if the budget could be found, so that’s 50-50. RLL sounds optimistic about a third car, and DragonSpeed may have hit the brakes due to IndyCar’s new driver qualification parameters.