Monday, May 29, 2017

Musings From the Weekend: Making It Work

Takuma Sato took a surprising and historic victory. Fernando Alonso can't escape engine failures even on ovals. The 24 Hours Nürburgring had a frantic finish. A streak ended in Monaco and McLaren had a winner of sorts this weekend on the famed streets. Pascal Wehrlein had a close encounter with the barrier at Portier. Brits defended their turf on two wheels. NASCAR had a rain delay and a race decided by fuel mileage. Here is a run down of what got me thinking.

Making It Work
He has done it. Fernando Alonso has run the Indianapolis 500. Unfortunately, it probably ended the last possible way he wanted it to end. The Spaniard has come to the United States, ran the pinnacle of ovals, proved his competence and now he returns... well Formula One next races in Canada so he will still be in North America but after that he returns to his jet-setting lifestyle of Formula One.

Alonso may never be back to run the Indianapolis 500. I know he wants to complete the Triple Crown but we know about the best-laid plans of mice and men. Ferrari or Mercedes or even Renault could come calling this autumn and offer him a respectable pay day, a competitive car and another shot at grand prix victories and a world drivers' championship and he could be in Formula One for the next five years and by the time he is done he could be 40 years old, tired and realizing the Triple Crown will just be something that has slipped by him. Although, Takuma Sato just won the race at 40 years old so maybe the fire could still be in him at that time.

Either way, Ferrari, Mercedes and Renault probably wouldn't allow Alonso to take two weeks off, head to Indianapolis and skip the Monaco Grand Prix. None of the three manufactures have ties to Indianapolis and none of the three seem interested in participating any time soon.

However, drivers want to drive and even though Formula One drivers don't speak seriously about their motorsports dream outside of Formula One, many want to dabble in other forms of motorsports. The last six weeks and Alonso's Indianapolis attempt has revived the idea of the Triple Crown and drivers openly trying it.

Liberty Media is trying new things and saying new things and openly came out and said it would like to avoid date clashes with MotoGP, which makes sense because both are popular in Europe and have the same television presenter in multiple countries. That makes sense for business but what about what make sense for sport?

Unfortunately, some look at series as a sport. Formula One is a sport. IndyCar is a sport. NASCAR is a sport. Sports cars is a sport. MotoGP is a sport. In reality, they are all the same just mildly different disciplines. We try to view driver cross-pollination as a Bo Jackson or Deion Sanders jumping between baseball and football but it shouldn't be as revolutionary as those two. Drivers bounce between series all the time. They go where they hope they can make a living. Other athletes don't do that. Kevin Durant isn't going to switch to hockey this summer when he is a free agent. He is going to continue to play basketball. Aaron Judge of the New York Yankees might be tempting for an NBA to sign as he stands at 6'7" but he is probably going to be a baseball player for the rest of his life.

Back to the point, drivers aren't supposed to be tied to a series. Drivers should go and race everything and anything and gather a following from people from all different walks of life.

Last year, Formula One raced in Azerbaijan the same weekend as the 24 Hours of Le Mans and this year it took longer than it should have to revise the calendar to make sure the same clash didn't happen again. No Formula One driver will be at Circuit de la Sarthe come June but the door is open and not just for the race but the Le Mans test day as well and that door should remain open. Could a similar door be opened to allow Formula One drivers to do Indianapolis as well?

The problem with Indianapolis is you would need to sacrifice two consecutive weekends because of qualifying so Monaco couldn't be moved up a week. It could be moved back a week but that would create a Monaco-Montreal back-to-back and crowd the month of June with three races in four weeks from Europe to North American and then to Azerbaijan, which is Asia but wants to be considered Europe. Moving Monaco back a week would also take away the open weekend on Le Mans test day.

If Monaco were to move up it would have to move up two weeks and that would also require the Spanish Grand Prix to move up but if Monaco went up two weeks and Spain moved up a week it would create three consecutive weekends with races from Russia to Spain to Monaco.

Any door opening to make it easier for Formula One drivers to compete at Indianapolis would require a minor shake up to the start of the Formula One calendar. The easiest thing that could be done is for Bahrain to move up to the season opener two weeks before Australia, which would allow Russia to move up a week in April and then allow Spain and Monaco to go back-to-back to start May with a three-week spring break before the Canadian Grand Prix in June and still allow drivers to run the Le Mans test day.

Formula One likely won't go for that but if for some reason they wanted to they could make it easy for their drivers to freelance but nothing is bound to change just because of this weekend. Formula One teams will still want to keep their drivers on a leash and no current drivers are going to buck the system and say he is doing Indianapolis and Le Mans and whatever other motorsports adventures that drivers so desires.

Despite the possibility of allowing the world's best drivers to do the greatest races in the world it appears nothing will be able to break the vice grip of Formula One teams. We all lose because of it.

Winners From the Weekend
You know about Takuma Sato but did you know...

Sebastian Vettel won the Monaco Grand Prix.

Austin Dillon won the Coca-Cola 600, his first career Cup victory. Ryan Blaney won the Grand National Series race.

Matheus Leist led every lap from pole position in the Freedom 100, his first Indy Lights victory.

Oliver Rowland and Nyck de Vries split the Formula Two races from Monaco.

The #29 Land-Motorsport Audi of Kelvin van der Linde, Christopher Mies, Markus Winkelhock and American Connor De Phillippi won the 24 Hours Nürburgring despite a botched final pit stop and being third with two laps to go.

Thed Björk and Nicky Catsburg split the WTCC races from the Nordschleife.

Tom Sykes won his ninth consecutive World Superbike race from Donington Park in race one and Jonathan Rea ended that streak with a victory in race two. Kenan Sofuoglu won the World Supersport race, his third consecutive victory.

The #58 Wright Motorsports Porsche of Patrick Long and Marc Leib won race one of Pirelli World Challenge SprintX weekend from Lime Rock Park. The #4 Magnus Racing Audi of Spencer Pumpelly and Dane Cameron won race two in SprintX. Rodrigo Baptista swept the GTS races.

André Lotterer and Yuhi Sekiguchi split the Super Formula races from Okayama.

Coming Up This Weekend
IndyCar has a doubleheader at Belle Isle.
IMSA will be at Belle Isle.
MotoGP head to Mugello.
NASCAR heads to Dover.
Blancpain Sprint Series will be at Zolder.