It didn’t take long, did it? Less than 24 hours after last week’s column had been posted, Fernando Alonso revealed his decision to quit F1 – for the time being – at the end of the season.
A day after the announcement, and much sooner than envisaged, he was having a dig at F1, saying it’s not as unpredictable as it used to be in 2004 and other seasons.
That was as questionable, if less vital, than some of his career decisions and choices in the past. In 2004, Michael Schumacher won 13 of the 18 races. He’d tied up his seventh championship at this precise point in the season even though, as it happens, the race in question at Spa was a cracker – mainly because Kimi Räikkönen drove brilliantly to score his second GP win, the McLaren-Mercedes leaving Schuey breathless and poker-faced at the end of it.
Strange, isn’t it, that Fernando made no complaint about predictability in 2006 when he led the points table from start to finish and, apart from a brief intrusion by Jenson Button and BAR-Honda in a wet Hungarian Grand Prix, the season was sewn up by Renault and Ferrari. And let’s not get into the Renault/McLaren monopoly (the farcical US GP aside) of the previous season that led to his first title.
Will Alonso never learn? One of the best racers of his generation does himself no favours with curious complaints that take him beyond the definition of ‘a colourful character’; as in, the sport needs individuals unfettered by PR sound bites – provided they speak good sense uninformed by bitterness.
In any case, Fernando has more pressing matters on his mind right now. He wanted unpredictable – and he got it on Sunday when a just-be-in-it-to-win-it thrash around Silverstone was denied by a Toyota technicality.
A few hours later, news came through of a horrendous accident for Robert Wickens at Pocono. High-speed shunts are not new on the tri-oval with a 224 mph average, but this one raises questions about the quality of fencing that seems to have briefly snared the car before causing much of the extensive injury to the Canadian.
(As an aside, I had the pleasure of working with Robert in the BBC Radio 5 Live commentary box during a practice session for the Canadian GP in 2011, the year he edged Jean-Eric Vergne to the Renault 3.5 title. Robert was articulate, knowledgeable and good company. I know I’m not alone in wishing such a personable and talented guy a full and speedy recovery.)
In the meantime, the circumstances of the accident are probably giving Alonso pause for thought as he considers racing on some of the ageing Indycar venues that may or may not form the prelude to his preparation for the completion of a Triple Crown attempt at the Indy 500.
Alonso, for instance, has never been against the halo, saying: ‘This is a safety device, it is head protection for the drivers, so there should not be any debate on that, as long as it's a safety device.’
After seeing the on-board of Wickens’ airborne car wiping out the top of Ryan Hunter-Reay’s roll-over hoop, it will be interesting to hear how Fernando aligns his incontestable view with the absence of the halo in Indycar. And, more controversially perhaps, the reaction of the US racing establishment if and when Alonso passes an opinion that, on this occasion at least, ought to be worth listening to.