Open Letter To An Open Letter…
Well it has been a while, how long you ask? Even if you’re not, to be exact, it’s been five months, twenty one days, sixteen hours and … well, no need to get that detailed, I think you get the point, since I have put my fingers on the keyboard. I have been on the sidelines for most of this 2017 F1 season.
However, although I have been away from the keyboard, I still read F1 in the morning, in the early afternoon, in the afternoon, in the late afternoon, in the evening, in the late evening, in the late, late evening and so on and so forth – every day.
So here we are in the almost middle of the second half of this season and I’m on a bit of a timeout and I’m saying to myself, “When will I get back to it? When will I get back to some of my completely un-biased, totally low-key, most definitely not pot-stirring op-ed’s for a sport that I have zero passion for?”
Then along comes this latest bout of articles about a driver whom I don’t favor at all. One Fernando Dias Alonso. There has been quite a bit of chatter about the Spaniard lately, in fact, now that I think about it, all year really. From his not-so-subtle appraisals of his engines’ capability (or lack thereof) on the radio during races to his surprise appearance at the legendary Brickyard, the Indianapolis 500. This being one of three crown jewels of motorsport as denoted by Alonso. By the way, his average speed was the fastest of any of the drivers that day, he held the lead at one point and had a real shot at the win if his you-know-what (hint: his Honda engine) didn’t go you-know-what (hint: belly up – on lap 179). Alonso then made the headlines again with his self-instituted deadline for remaining in F1 contingent on having a winning F1 car by September. Yes, the month that has just be filed in the ‘done’ column.
The latest news-worthy item, or not, is the suggestion from well known F1 journo Noel Roderick (that he opined during an interview with Peter Windsor) that Alonso is the driver of the century, no news to this blogger. (See: most of the blogs I’ve written.)
But that got me thinking about yet another article I read not too long ago in which the author, in an open letter to Alonso, recommended why it would serve him better to pilot an Indy car instead of continuing in F1. This is the point that brought me to the keyboard today.
I want to say right from the get-go that the article is extremely well written, very respectful, generally an enjoyable read, and there are several points that I think are spot on.
The author smartly gives Alonso his due as a driver and explains that he still believes the driver is at the top of his game. In this way he puts forth his argument that in light of this fact, it would be better for Alonso to be winning regardless of the type of car and/or series in which he is involved. In this case the author is lobbying for Alonso to continue his driving career in the American Verizon Indy Car series.
The author proceeds to prove his argument with what I agree are compelling points, both from a technical side and from the point of view of the clock, as in: time is running out for such a talented driver and this unique talent should not be putt-putting around at the back of the queue. The author reminds Alonso (and us) that even if, in some crazy reversal of fortune, McLaren-Honda (this article was written prior to the Honda/Renault switch-a-roo) produce a car worthy of podiums and race wins, championships are probably not in the cards anytime soon. All true, and if you are an Alonso fan – painfully true.
And you know what? I almost fell for it. I almost let the idea of Alonso being on the Indy Car top step (even though the podiums in this series look tragic in my opinion) cloud my judgment. My guard was down and I was seduced into following the author’s line of reasoning.
For one split second, I was on board. Yay! Alonso winning again! Of course it makes sense, never mind that I can’t stand the cars in this series because they look clumsy and as for the liveries, well, difficult to look at is about the nicest way I can put it. Never mind that it is like a crash derby on a regular basis and never mind the restarts. Oh the restarts! Sometimes I wonder if any of these drivers realize what passing actually is? But fine, Alonso is winning again – keep your eye on the prize – Alonso is winning again – like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz: “There’s no place like home, there’s no place like home, there’s no place …” Then it hit me … INDY CAR????
Luckily I have a strong will. Luckily I was able to shock myself out of the spell that for one moment, one intensely small minute of my life had vexed all passion and more crucially, all logic out of me. Alonso in Indy Car? No, negative, not here, definitely not, non, nien, いいえ, nr, 否, não, нет, absolutely not and for those of you who care that was NO in several common languages.
So consider this an open letter to the author’s open letter, and here is why Alonso should not/will not move over to Indy car (minus the Indy 500, which I hope he will contest again next year, and the following year, the year after that, and maybe the year after that one as well.
First, as we all know, F1 is the pinnacle of motorsport. F1 holds that particular status in motor racing for two reasons, one, it produces the absolute fastest/best/most complete drivers in the world and two, nothing can compare to a modern day F1 car. Although I would be sympathetic to someone suggesting the current crop of WEC LMP1 hybrid cars are at the very least as complex and sophisticated as an F1, but they are not as elegant or, to be less politically correct, nothing is as downright sexy as an F1 car. Period.
That is the most obvious reason and provides what I would say is enough of an argument, but it is not even what I am basing my thesis on. No, there are further reasons that I can point to, that leave no doubt in my mind why Alonso will be in F1 next year, the year after that, and hopefully the year after that. Etc.
You have to ask yourself, would Alonso truly enjoy winning in a lesser formula? Or, to put it another way, which is more important to a driver of Alonso’s stature: Winning races against very, very good drivers (but by no means the best) or competing against the absolute very best despite the fact that you’re not winning?
It is a fair question for sure and part of me does see merit in the logic the author puts forth. But then again who ever said logic is the be all and end all in life?
Look, I’m in no way dissing Indy Car. Well, maybe I am a little bit, but trust me when I say I believe that the likes of Will Power, Scott Dixon, Helio Castroneves, and a few others could hold their own in F1. However, the Hamiltons, Vettels, Rosbergs, Ricciardos, Verstappens and of course Alonsos of the world are in a different league. It is just that simple and therein lies the rub, once you have raced against the best, beaten the best or been on top of the absolute best of the best formula, it is hard to imagine doing anything else, winning races notwithstanding.
However, there is yet another reason Alonso will not move to Indy Car next year and that is this: Because he still has unfinished business in F1 – and because he truly believes the opportunities to achieve the highly sought after third championship are still very real. As long as that is a possibility I can’t see the constitution that governs this remarkable driver allowing him any other option but to continue to fight for that goal, that dream. Simply put, a move to Indy car means giving up his dream and as we all know, Champions never give up.
Did Tom Brady give up in last year’s Super Bowl? No, he and his team engineered the greatest comeback in football history (although I’m not that much of a football buff so I might be overstating that). Did LeBron James give up in the finals against Golden State when the writing was on the wall even before the series started? No. He and the Cavs found a way to win. Did Tiger Woods give up at Pebble Beach when he was seven shots down with nine holes to go??? No, he won that wet and cold day by two strokes. Did Nadal give up to Federer at Wimbledon in a marathon match (to a player who had beaten him the previous two years running by the way) that will be remembered in the history books as one of the greatest tennis matches of all time? No, no, no, NO, NO and NO-NO….
For some drivers, one is enough. James Hunt comes to mind and Nico Rosberg followed the same path just last year. For others, one is just the beginning. Who was it in F1 that said, “As soon as I won my first championship I began to think how can I win my second.” or something like that anyways. That line has always stayed with me and it is a window into the mechanics of some athletes, their nature, their make-up, the very fabric that binds them together and which tethers them to sport and to the successes that they willfully manifest seemingly out of thin air.
This must be how it is for Alonso. He came painfully close to a championship three times after his two with Renault, and in the case of 20I0 and 2012 it is fair to say that he came close with woefully uncompetitive cars – thank you very much for that Maranello.
Many fans and pundits these last three years have commonly asked, “How does he do it? How does Alonso stay motivated?” This is the wrong question for it seems to me quite clear how easy it is to stay motivated – he is that very special kind of driver whose desire to win and perform at the highest level is paramount to his character. Alonso needs F1, winning or not, like you and I need air.
So I say to Alonso – don’t give in, don’t give up. I say follow your dream, it does not matter if you don’t or do win another championship, hell it does not even matter if you do or don’t win another race – all that really matters is that you stay true to your heart, true to your dream.
See you in Melbourne 2018 Fernando…
-j (still your biggest fan) p-