Two-time Formula 1 champion Fernando Alonso is undoubtedly one of the very best drivers in the world, but a series of underperforming and unreliable cars in F1 has led him to look to other series to get his kicks.
He’s desperate to become only the second person in history (the first being Graham Hill) to win the Triple Crown of Motorsport - that is the Monaco Grand Prix, Indianapolis 500, and Le Mans 24 Hours. He’s already won Monaco (twice) and wasn’t far off winning at Indy in his rookie attempt last year. He raced in (and enjoyed) the Daytona 24 Hours last month and will make his first assault at Le Mans with Toyota this year. On top of that, he’s also competing in the entire 2018/19 World Endurance Championship season - alongside his existing F1 commitments.
The only problem was that the 6 Hours of Fuji was set to take place on the same October weekend as the United States Grand Prix, and with F1 taking priority for Alonso, the WEC was going to have to do without him for one round.
That wasn’t good enough for Toyota. You see, Fuji is Toyota’s home circuit, and not having a global star like Alonso there didn’t sit right. It was also in the WEC’s interests to have him driving in every race, so the series announced that the Fuji round was being moved forward a week, to 14 October. Great! No more clash, Alonso can do even more races, everyone wins. Right?
The problem is that other series had already made some commitments. The Japanese Super GT championship had already shifted its Autopolis round once so that it didn’t clash with Fuji, but the calendar change meant that the two races clashed again. As a result, Super GT has had to change its calendar again, the Autopolis race now taking place a week later on 21 October.
That’s not the biggest problem, though. The Fuji date change now means the race clashes with Petit Le Mans, the final round of IMSA’s WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. Several drivers were scheduled to compete in both events but now, obviously, that can’t happen. The WEC was aware of the possibility, with series boss Gerard Neveu sending out a plea to IMSA to also change it’s date, saying, “We understand this causes trouble for some other drivers and my hope - a big hope - is that maybe that IMSA can find a way to move the date, because we have done it before and it’s possible.”
It didn’t take long for IMSA to say no, as with so many other events geared around Petit Le Mans it simply isn’t possible to do so. It leaves many drivers in a quandary and having to decide which series (and indeed, which championship) they want to sacrifice for the other. Unless the teams choose for them, anyway.
Understandably those drivers are pretty miffed at the WEC, with several taking to Twitter to vent their ire, sympathise, or simply make light of the situation.
It’s all a bit of a mess, isn’t it? You can’t really blame Fernando as he wouldn’t have expected a championship to move an entire race just so he can compete. It’s also easy to understand where the WEC and Toyota are coming from. Of course they’d want someone with the star capacity of Alonso to race. It’ll put bums on seats and bring fresh eyes to the series, just because of him.
Commercially, it’s a no-brainer. But at the same time, it’s hard not to feel sorry for the numerous drivers who’ll be missing out because of a single person.