Alonso first raced in the 500 in 2017 when he shocked the F1 community by electing to skip the Monaco Grand Prix so that he could go and do it. It’s been part of his desire to diversify as a driver and show that he can compete across multiple disciplines and to also join the elite club of drivers who’ve won motorsport’s Triple Crown – a club currently only populated by Graham Hill. A two-time Monaco winner, he’s since won Le Mans twice as well, leaving only the Indy 500 left for him to win.
A victory contender in his rookie year, he returned for a second time in 2019 but, after a difficult build-up for his McLaren team, sensationally failed to qualify. He’s back again this year with the McLaren Arrow SP squad and will be hoping that the third time’s the charm – because otherwise, it’ll be three years before he’ll be back for another go. That’s because he’s returning to F1 with Renault in 2021 and 2022, and he’s said he won’t be racing at the Brickyard in that time:
“I think I’m approaching the race knowing that the next two years it’s going to be impossible to come. I would have to miss qualifying weekend if I wanted to. I will not be with McLaren anymore next year in F1, so that will not work either.
“So I know that at least for two years that I will not be here. This is the way it is at the moment.
“I’m here, ready to enjoy the event, ready to give my best and help the team as much as I can and we’ll see in the future what are the possibilities and if eventually we won one day the race, maybe that opens the possibility for different things.”
If Alonso was to return in 2023, he’d be 42-years-old. And while age isn’t as much of a concern at Indy as it in other series (Al Unser won the race at 47 back in 1987, Emerson Fittipaldi 46 in 1993, and Arie Luyendyk 43 in 1997), it raises the awareness that the time he has to win the race may be somewhat limited.
Then again, it might not end up being an issue after all – if the 2021 F1 and IndyCar calendars end up having to be a bit unusual again, then who knows – there might be an opportunity to race at the 500 sooner than he thinks.
Of course, this problem could easily be solved if he just went out and won the thing this year. Qualifying happens this weekend (with just 33 entries this year, there’s no risk of him failing to make the grid this time!) with the 500 taking place on 23 August.