You have to admire Fernando Alonso.

Still generally acknowledged as one of the best, if not the actual best, of all the drivers on the Formula 1 grid, he seems to maintain a public face of enthusiasm and enjoyment from driving his McLaren. A recalcitrant car that has not returned to him that favour of enthusiasm to actually be competitive in a race for a long time now.

Perhaps his optimism is almost imperceptibly waning but still he gives every ounce of his considerable talent whenever he steps into his non-performing orange office on wheels.

The paddock rumour mill, when it is bored with the Brendon Hartley situation, now has the two times Formula 1 world champion Alonso stepping back from Formula 1 to be driving a McLaren badged IndyCar in 2019.


Who can blame him?

With few doors open for a race winning seat and the immediate McLaren Formula 1 teams future looking ever more akin to the Titanic, where in Formula 1 could he go? Sports cars and IndyCar look to be his choice and that would be sad for Formula 1.

It would be a huge boost for IndyCar, a sport that has been in the attendance and viewership doldrums for some years but, according to 'statistics', now undergoing something of a resurgence in popularity, this despite the fact that Will Power's Indy 500 win ranks as the lowest rated and least-watched on record. The previous lows were set in 2017.

It is also worth noting that the Canadian Formula 1 Grand Prix viewing figures in the UK dropped to their lowest ebb of the modern era. No wonder, as it was one of the dullest races ever to be held on that beautiful track prompting suggestions that the chequered flag should have been shown 68 laps early instead of just one.

These viewership figures show that a major boost is needed in both series to claw back the audience and perhaps Alonso is the 'knight in shining armour' for IndyCar.

In their early days the forerunners of IndyCar ('Champcar' and 'CART' respectively) were mainly the preserve of North American drivers, brought up on the speedway tracks of the Mid-West, and had a huge following. The names of Foyt, Unser, Andretti and Rutherford circled the world.

Some non-American drivers made regular guest appearances at the Indy 500, with great names and F1 champions among them, but it was not until the arrival of drivers like Emerson Fittipaldi and Nigel Mansell that international drivers began to take on the series as a whole.

As in all motorsport politics and money rule, and the premier American single seater series became riven with problems between the team owners and the sanctioning body.
Years of dispute saw the popularity of the series decline and in the eyes of many Europeans it was a rest home for drivers who could not make the European big league.
The 'poor cousin' to F1. The TV companies deserted the sport and the sponsors followed, as did some teams.


Since those days and the subsequent acrimonious birth of the 'Indy Racing League' – now known as 'IndyCar' – the sport has gradually clawed back fans, TV broadcasters and sponsors as well as an expansion of teams and drivers.

It seems that IndyCar is slowly gaining the ground lost over the last four decades.

The drivers have become more international with 21 of the 33 drivers to start the 2018 Indy 500 being non-American. Those young American drivers have become genuine contenders for wins and as Kiwi driver and multiple champion Scott Dixon says "the competition is very close".

With actual overtaking, albeit assisted with 'push to pass' buttons, multiple pit stops and power from a real 'engine' - no battery power here thank you - and with cars that look like real racing cars rather than sculptural masterpieces more suited to a transformers art gallery, there is simply more to watch on track than some Formula 1 races.

Add to that the higher speeds with IndyCars racing inches apart on high speed ovals, road courses and street tracks and the drivers have to have a more expanded skill set. IndyCar racing is now clawing it's way back to being a valid destination for international drivers, engineers and mechanics alike.

Formula 1 and IndyCar are not interchangeable, there are huge differences and problems on both sides and rarely does one driver succeed in having a foot in both camps, but the best can, and do, adapt.

Fernando Alonso is one of the best.