Welcome to the Robin Miller Mailbag presented by Honda Racing / HPD. You can follow the Santa Clarita, California-based company at: hpd.honda.com and on social media at @HondaRacing_HPD and https://www.facebook.com/HondaRacingHPD.
Your questions for Robin should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. We cannot guarantee we’ll publish all your questions and answers, but Robin will reply to you. And if you have a question about the technology side of racing, Robin will pass these on to Marshall Pruett and he will also answer here.
Q: Michael Andretti wanted to do the McLaren partnership first. And it would’ve been very successful! Michael and Alonso would’ve been as successful as Carl Haas and Nigel Mansell, in my opinion. OK, it’s not gonna happen and Alonso is not gonna run IndyCar full-time. I get the Honda Japan reason, I do. But why doesn’t Michael just move to Chevy and do it all? OK, number one, if you’re gonna beat Penske, you can’t be a Chevy, because Roger gets the pick of the litter with Chevy. Michael basically gets the pick of the litter with Honda.
The domino was Rossi. If Roger got Rossi, he would have the four best drivers and basically have a monopoly on winning! Michael had to keep Rossi at all costs, and Honda wanted and needed Rossi! So, Michael had to play nice with Honda of Japan, and give up on Alonso to maintain the balance of power with Rossi. Alonso was just a project and a friend to Michael, but Rossi is his bread and butter. It’s too bad, because I do think a full season of Michael and Alonso would bring us some Nigel Mansell magic! Now, I do believe that Michael and Colton Herta will be the hottest story in our great sport, so look forward to it, fans! I’m just disappointed!
Dan, Lima, Ohio
RM: Regardless of what engine he ran, Alonso was never going to run the full season – just Indy and maybe a couple of road races. And maybe someone can give Ed Carpenter some money to run Fred in a fourth car this May. Michael came close to jumping to Chevrolet, but Honda and a few others sweetened the kitty and got him to stay, which thankfully maintained the balance of power. But while there’s certainly a pecking order, all engines are the same on both sides.
Q: As a fan and not an insider, I can’t help but think that Alonso is his own worst enemy. He just seems to have made bad move after bad move after bad choice over the past few years. From his move from Ferrari, to being overly critical of Honda, to leaving F1. I have immense respect for his talent, but I feel like his career has been poorly managed for some time now. I was wondering your thoughts on the matter?
RM: Well, referring to the Honda F1 engine as a GP2 motor certainly wasn’t very well-received in Japan and obviously there must have been constant criticism that will not be forgiven. I wish he had publicly apologized, because that might have been well-received. Personally, I find Fred a delightful person to interview, and his professionalism last May was unprecedented in view of the disaster laid at his feet. And he’s a great racer who brings lots of interest to Indy, so I was hoping that what I’d been writing was going to come true. His critics say he’s always been difficult if things don’t go his way, but that pretty much defines most of the great drivers I know.
Q: So Alonso has now reaped what he sowed and it could open the door for Hinch to get a great ride with a chance to win. That would be a double-whammy to McLaren and Alonso. So will Fred put his tail between his legs and return to SPM? To be clear, I am a fan of Fred.
Harold, Dayton, Ohio
RM: It could certainly be a godsend for Hinch, but Fernando wanted to go with Andretti because he knows it’s his best chance to win, or at least one of them. I would imagine Zak Brown will offer Fred a ride, but not sure there is anything else he would consider.
Q: Surely now that Honda won’t run Alonso (which was obvious, wasn’t it?) R.P. will field a car for him? Now that he owns IndyCar, which should be much celebrated, he can see the international draw that Alonso is? Surely sponsors would be queuing up? I’m not an Alonso fan, but I do admire him trying other disciplines, and surely he is gold to IndyCar?
Stuart Williams, Harrogate, UK
RM: No, it wasn’t obvious, and Michael was very optimistic it was going to happen, so it sounds like Japan may not have been contacted and everyone assumed it was going to happen. I asked R.P. this week if he was interested in trying to get Fernando a ride for Indy, and he said he needed to know all the details before making any comment.
Q: Do you think, now that Honda has closed the door on an Alonso/Andretti partnership, that Roger Penske will think about having his team run Fernando, or at least partner with a Chevy team to do so? After all, it’s Roger’s show now, and having Alonso in the field would be good for business. Alonso is coming to the Indy 500 for one reason and one reason only: to win. I would think that after his experience last year, he would rather be on the sidelines than with a team that would be a field-filler at best, and that would seem to categorize the only available Chevy rides at this time. The Captain should get him a competitive ride!
Bruce, Philadelphia (former Pocono attendee)
RM: As I said in the question above yours, R.P. might consider helping once he gets all the facts, but I can promise you that he won’t be running a fifth car in May even if Rick Mears wants to come out of retirement. I think Fernando’s best shot to be competitive would be with Ed Carpenter, but he told RACER last week he is set for 2020 and wants to run Kyle Busch in 2021. So I imagine Arrow McLaren SP is his only option.
Q: Honda of Japan pulling the plug on Fernando Alonso’s Indy ride is incredibly short-sighted, petty, immature, and frankly stupid. Furthermore, does Japan even care what happens in IndyCar? Often doesn’t seem like it. You could have saved face by making Alonso apologize or whatever, and moved on. Fools, this is only detrimental to IndyCar, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and the fans. Perhaps Roger can save this deal yet, but I doubt it.
Greg from NJ
RM: Let’s be honest here. I’ve been writing for a few months that Andretti was going to run Alonso, and Michael was very positive in the last story. But even though HPD boss Ted Klaus was gung-ho to make it happen I don’t know that anyone ever got an official word from Japan until late last week. Maybe we all assumed that Japan held a grudge against McLaren and not Fred, and all was forgiven. But obviously it wasn’t true.