His surreal and heroic Stateside dalliance over, Fernando Alonso must now return to the reality of his predicament in Formula One, as the issues which facilitated his IndyCar debut refuse to disappear.
The Spaniard achieved everything he could have hoped for, and then some, with the presence and assuredness of a seasoned combatant at the Indianapolis 500, his ultimate retirement in the closing laps academic to his satisfaction at running competitively once more, yet this looms as a sadly fleeting sensation.
McLaren and Honda lurch from crisis to crisis, with the 35-year-old facing a tortured resumption of normal service from next weekend’s Canadian Grand Prix, and the euphoria of his rediscovered enthusiasm can only be expected to last so long.
The outfit’s greatest opportunity in the foreseeable future came and went unrealised last weekend at Monaco, which Alonso bypassed, and the two-time champion isn’t likely to endure a further fourteen events without the prospect of troubling the points – Hungary and Singapore pose the sole realistic considerations, much less completing a race distance, which he is yet to achieve this season.
Walking away from the balance of his contract sometime around the mid-season break cannot be dismissed, it’s conceivable that the Spaniard feels his time can be better spent cleansing his mind ahead of his next pursuit, irrespective of where the tenuous McLaren-Honda partnership is placed.
A greater question than his future at Woking is his ongoing tenure in the sport, whether he can find the will to continue when fate has been relentlessly unkind to his aspirations, and the scale on which he believes he can compete in coming seasons.
(AFP / Jorge Guerrero)
It appears improbable that he will add to his two titles which belong to a now distant era, thus the equation boils down to whether he wants to depart on a whimper or in a position where podiums and gracing the top step of the podium remains a possibility, with anything further an unforeseen stroke of fortune.
Alonso admitted to Planeta Calleja that “I’d be lying if I told you now that I have a concrete plan”, remaining receptive to any outcome, “I could go to another team… if Renault starts to dominate, I don’t know. If in June or July a team calls, I think we would have a chance” speaking to his understandably ambivalent mindset.
The only outfit the victor of 32 Grands Prix has dismissed is Red Bull “because it already has young drivers with long contracts”, notably casting Ferrari aside despite his acrimonious departure in 2014, which demonstrates his willingness to forget the past, something which sounds familiar.
Nobody envisaged a second stint at McLaren, and the circumstances surrounding his initial exit remain far more explosive than his leave from Maranello, the bottom line is that Alonso’s career trajectory has transcended the conventional wisdom at every turn, so why not once more?
Much has been made of a fairytale return to Renault, this columnist included, which would represent a third chapter at the Enstone outfit he claimed his dual crowns alongside, though where the French manufacturer surfaces in coming months and its structure – with Nico Hülkenberg ensconced as the face of championship tilts, which remain a long-term proposition, might not be sufficient.
Whoever is willing to handle the nuclear football which Alonso represents does so in the knowledge that the Spaniard is a desperate individual and despite the considerable baggage, remains one of the best in the business.
The true question is, does Fernando Alonso believe that any outfit can compel him to jump out of bed in the morning, and is he content to settle for anything less than another title?
A place on the podium for Max Verstappen at the Australian Grand Prix was not only significant for the Dutchman, claiming his first ever podium at the Albert Park circuit, but it was the first trip to the rostrum for a Honda-powered car in the turbo-hybrid era.
Okay, it’s far too early to definitively declare Valtteri Bottas as a serious threat to the runaway championship train that is Lewis Hamilton, but you’ve got to admit that a sporting story beginning with several nights of heavy Scandinavian drinking has a certain appeal.