If we weren’t already this far into the month, we’d think this was an April Fool’s joke – but apparently it’s for real: Fernando Alonso is going to miss the 2017 Monaco Grand Prix. Why? Because he’ll be competing in the Indianapolis 500 instead.
The two-time world champion will drive a Dallara DW12 (just like everyone else on the grid), backed by McLaren, decked out in its signature Papaya Orange livery, entered by Andretti Autosport (whose chief Michael Andretti drove for McLaren alongside Ayrton Senna in 1993), and powered by Honda (just like Fernando’s F1 chassis).
It’ll be the first time Alonso will contest the “greatest spectacle in racing,” and the first time he’ll race on an oval track altogether. He did, however, contest the United States Grand Prix six times on the road course at Indy, finishing runner up in 2007 (behind Lewis Hamilton) while the two were both driving for – you guessed it – McLaren.
It won’t be the first time that McLaren will be represented in the Indianapolis 500, though. In fact McLarens won the race three times in the 1970s – once with Mark Donohue driving and twice with Johnny Rutherford. This will mark an interesting return for the team, then.
It’s not unheard of for F1 drivers to try their hand at Indy. In fact Alonso will find some familiar faces there, including those of Takuma Sato, Alexander Rossi, Sebastien Bourdais, and Juan Pablo Montoya – all of whom once competed in Formula One alongside Alonso. Most of the time, though, drivers compete in one then the other, not both at the same time. The notable exception was Nigel Mansell, who remains the only driver ever to hold the IndyCar and F1 championships at the same time.
Neither McLaren nor Honda confirmed who will take Alonso’s seat back at the Monaco Grand Prix, but the word on the street has it that Jenson Button will return for the one-off drive. Either way, after that, Alonso will be back in the F1 cockpit in time for the Canadian Grand Prix.
If he defies expectations and manages to win the Indy 500 on his first time, he’ll be well on his way to winning the unofficial Triple Crown of Motorsport. He has, after all, already won the Monaco Grand Prix (and the F1 title) twice, and has been widely anticipated to try his hand at Le Mans when he’s done with F1.