Others should follow Fernando Alonso’s decision to race outside F1

Jawad Yaqub Roar Guru

By , Jawad Yaqub is a Roar Guru

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    The news that Fernando Alonso will skip the prestigious Monaco Grand Prix next month and instead contest the equally prestigious Indy 500 sent shockwaves around the Formula One world.

    Seldom in this age do high-profile motorsport athletes, particularly those in Formula One, hop across various categories.

    Current Renault F1 driver Nico Hulkenberg’s one-off foray into the World Endurance Championship, in 2015, saw the German on his sportscar racing debut achieve ultimate glory at the legendary 24 Hours of Le Mans.

    Hulkenberg in Formula One is yet to even appear on the podium, despite being one of the more experienced names on the grid, but winning at Le Mans while contesting a full-time season in his regular sport was something of great envy.

    The German acted also as a conduit between both categories of racing, where the interest in the single driver had attracted viewers of one series to the other.

    As did the one-off Formula One appearance in 2014 for World Endurance Champion and three-time Le Mans winner André Lotterer, albeit for perennial backmarkers Caterham at the Belgian Grand Prix.

    Alonso’s decision to race at the Indy 500, while received negatively by some – including Red Bull Racing boss Christian Horner, who labelled McLaren as “barking mad,” for being the architects of the collaboration – has mainly had a positive reception.

    Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button for McLaren-Honda

    The only detractor is that Alonso will be missing a grand prix, which has been described as being a kick in the face for Formula One.

    Looking at the bigger picture however, it seems the right thing to do when considering the aforementioned sentiments regarding drawing viewership across categories.

    Someone of Alonso’s stature and current predicament in Formula One can be excused. McLaren too, as a racing team, gets to return to its halcyon years under the new leadership of Zak Brown – who intends to take the famous marque into sportscar racing, as well as IndyCar, full-time in the future.

    But from a competitive perspective, it’s been an age since the notion of challenging motorsport’s ‘Triple Crown’ – winning the Indy 500, the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the Monaco Grand Prix – has been raised.

    Only one driver has achieved the feat, two-time Formula One champion Graham Hill. The Briton won an incredible five races at Monaco, as well as clinching the Indy 500 in 1966, and Le Mans in 1972.

    A handful of drivers have won two of the three races, including one of Alonso’s former Formula One rivals in Juan-Pablo Montoya – who triumphed at Monaco in 2003 for Williams and is a twice winner at the Indy 500.

    Lengthy seasons and calendar clashes in Formula One are strong deterrents against any cross-competing, however correlation in conjunction with the sport’s governing body in the FIA (who also govern the World Endurance Championship) could see future clashes between Triple Crown events avoided.

    Now that the antiquated previous commercial rights holder of Formula One has been deposed, their replacements, Liberty Media, seem savvier to the idea of Formula One being promoted through other global motorsport platforms.

    It would be something at which to truly marvel if more drivers emulated Jim Clark, who won the Formula One title in 1965, as well as attaining success at the Indy 500 that same year.