Fernando Alonso is making his Le Mans debut this weekend only because his McLaren chief Zak Brown is a race driver at heart and understands the Spaniard’s need to compete at a level other than Formula 1, a desire he has harboured for several years.
This season Alonso is contesting the 2018-2019 World Endurance Championship (WEC) with Toyota Gazoo Racing, sharing car #8 with Sébastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima. They won on their first outing at the 6 Hours of Spa. The target this weekend is victory at the sport’s most famous endurance race.
Speaking to AS at Le Mans, Alonso was asked if he believed more drivers would follow his example and compete in other series in tandem with their grand prix careers, he replied, “In the future maybe, I don’t know because it depends on each individual.”
“I can see more F1 drivers racing in different championships, but the problem with F1 is that your team boss won’t allow you to compete in other categories… so you have to find the right boss,” he added with a grin.
It appears that Alonso has just that in his boss Brown, a race driver and team owner in his own right,”[Zak] is a race driver at heart and understands the needs of a driver, he is also adapting this vision to McLaren which is not just a Formula 1 team, it’s part of motoring.”
“People think I am looking for other challenges because in Formula 1 things are not going well for me, but when I was at Ferrari in 2013, I was the official starter here and I was trying to race at Le Mans for several years. That was while I was winning in Formula 1. My desire was independent to the results.”
Alonso jetted to France immediately after his DNF with McLaren at the Canadian Grand Prix and signed-on for the race weekend before partaking in the traditional drivers parade through the city.
“It was emotional, it’s an experience that you do not find in other categories,” declared Alonso.
Track action at Le Mans begins with practice on Wednesday and for the two times, F1 World Champion the goal is crystal clear, “If we finish on the podium, fine, completely happy if Toyota wins the 24 Hours. If both Toyotas finish on the podium, good, but I want to be on the top step.”
Big Question Should active F1 drivers be allowed to compete in other series?