The Mystery of the Monaco Grand Prix

Photo: Luxury F1

By: Kobe Lambeth

Compared to recent years, it has been quite an interesting start to the 2017 FIA Formula One World Championship season. We have an intense title battle on our hands as Mercedes and Ferrari look to take the fight to one another throughout the season. Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton, and Valtteri Bottas have already earned the top spot on the podium. With battles up front and the midfield, it would not be a surprise to see a shocking result in the 2017 edition of the Monaco Grand Prix.

The Monaco Grand Prix was won by Mercedes, three times by retired reigning World Champion Nico Rosberg, and last year with Lewis Hamilton. Based on the technical nature of the famous street circuit and the way the competition has fared so far this season, it would not be a surprise to see a surprise winner or spectacular stories finish in the points.

Ferrari and Mercedes are the obviously favorites as they have been going head to head in each grand prix this season. Another historic battle between Hamilton and Vettel is something Formula One fans live for, but do not count out their teammates as Valtteri Bottas and Kimi Raikkonen. Red Bull will likely be a contender too as drivers Daniel Ricciardo and Max Verstappen must be hungry to add their names to a list of legends who have won at Monaco. However, last year was a massive disappointment for Red Bull as Ricciardo was in a position to win, but a terrible mishap on an unprepared pit stop left the team scratching their heads. Monaco is definitely filled with drama, tight corners, and plenty of excitement.

One of the largest storylines heading into race weekend is two-time Formula One World Champion and Monaco Grand Prix winner, Fernando Alonso choosing to skip the grand prix in favor of joining the Verizon IndyCar Series for a one-off in the No. 29 McLaren-Honda fielded by Andretti Autosport as he attempts to go for glory at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the 101st running of the Indianapolis 500. As Alonso will not be in Monaco, McLaren-Honda has called upon Jenson Button to take his place alongside Stoffel Vandoorne. It will be interesting to see how Button adapts to the 2017 Formula One car as the increased loads of downforce are completely different compared to the 2016-spec McLaren-Honda.

Mercedes, Ferrari, and Red Bull are the favorites but do not count out the others as the power units are not as important on a technical circuit such as Monaco. How cool would it be to see strategy produce a shocking winner or a surprise in the points? That is the true unique mystery about the Monaco Grand Prix. We never truly know what is going to happen until the checkered flag falls on the streets of beautiful and scenic Monte Carlo.

 

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The Significance of Alonso to Indy

Photo: Lars Baron

By: Kobe Lambeth

I remember when I first saw the news as I awoke on a beautiful Spring afternoon in April. At first, I believed it was “fake news” or a late April Fools Day prank, but it was shockingly true. Active McLaren-Honda Formula One driver, Fernando Alonso announced that he would skip the Monaco Grand Prix to travel to the United States, in order to compete in the 101st running of the Indianapolis 500, driving a McLaren-Honda entry fielded by Andretti Autosport.

Honestly, nobody saw this coming. Of course, people probably daydreamed of something significant happening, but not a well-respected Formula One World Champion choosing to miss the biggest grand prix of the year in favor of the American open wheel classic at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

In a short amount of time, Alonso will have to learn quickly as the Indianapolis 500 is next month, plus the learning curve is steeper as Alonso has never raced on an oval. After taking a few days of digest the shocking news and listen to hundreds of opinions, there are mixed feelings in the motorsports community about the massive challenge Alonso will face once he takes his first laps around the historic speedway.

Some of Alonso’s F1 rivals seem to support his decision but are questioning the decision to skip Monaco, where the power unit should not play a major factor in lap times compared to other tracks on the F1 circuit. There are some who are completely against the idea of a driver skipping a grand prix and trading Formula One for IndyCar. Finally, those like myself, fully embrace and respect Alonso’s quest to tackle the mindblowing speeds of American oval racing.

I understand that skipping the Monaco Grand Prix may seem like Alonso does not want to be a part of Formula One anymore, but it appears to be a smart decision considering the season has not started off the way everyone at McLaren-Honda envisioned. With the current state of the car and not scoring championship points in the first two rounds, Alonso does not have much to lose by skipping Monaco. The Top 10 finishers are rewarded points while everyone else gets nothing, so leaving for Indianapolis could be for the best this time around.

Both Formula One and IndyCar should benefit from Alonso competing for glory at Indy. Alonso is loved by the fans in Formula One, so his diehard supporters will likely watch their favorite driver on race day. This is a perfect way to introduce IndyCar to a new audience and possibly gain new supporters. Some F1 fans have questioned oval racing, so actually seeing one of their drivers compete in this crown jewel event may give them a new view of something they once doubted.

IndyCar will get new exposure from a worldwide audience with the addition of Fernando Alonso in a livery similar to the McLaren-Honda F1 car. Overall, Formula One and IndyCar will be big winners from this deal. Both series will get worldwide exposure and more fans may pay attention to the events leading up to Memorial Day weekend. However, the ultimate winner is the race fan.

Crossovers are not common anymore due to the rigorous schedules in auto racing series throughout the world. The most recent crossover was in 2014, when Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series star, Kurt Busch, attempted “The Double” as he finished 6th in the Indianapolis 500 for Andretti Autosport and 40th in NASCAR’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway after a blown engine for Stewart-Haas Racing. Instead of getting upset at Alonso for choosing Indy over Monaco, we should embrace it as we are lucky to have this historic deal come together in a short amount of time.

How often are we going to get an “active” F1 driver competing in the Indianapolis 500? Although Alexander Rossi won last year’s addition, he was not an active F1 driver at the time, but he was a reserve driver for the now defunct Manor F1 Team. Winning the race as a rookie was absolutely an incredible feat. However, having a driver such as Fernando Alonso with many years of F1 experience, two world championships, and two-time winner of the Monaco Grand Prix truly takes the Indianapolis 500 to a different level.

As a two-time winner of Formula One’s biggest event and a two-time world champion, Fernando Alonso has nothing left to prove in Formula One. He is in the prime of his career and his looking for a new challenge. Racing on an oval where speeds reach 230mph is definitely a challenge for one of the best drivers in the world. There will be so much to learn in such a short amount of time, but I strongly believe that Alonso has the skills necessary to succeed in the 500 mile oval race.

As we wait for May 28, 2017, the excitement will build and there will be many unknowns. For any doubters of this historic challenge, I advise you to be more open-minded and embrace it. This is significant and rare for the worldwide motorsports audience so the spotlight will be on Formula One and IndyCar until the checkered flag is waved. Sometimes, we need a new adventure to refuel our passion for what we truly love.

 

 

Remember: 2015

Photo: http://www.monuments.com

By: Kobe Lambeth

I want to take some time and remember three people the racing community lost in 2015.

Steve Byrnes

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Photo: http://www.youtube.com

The NASCAR community knows all about this story. Steven Patrick Byrnes left the Earth on April 21, 2015. Byrnes was a long-time anchor for NASCAR on FOX. He left behind his wife Karen and son Bryson. Steve Byrnes fought cancer until the very end. For those who do not know the Steve Byrnes story, please tell them how he was a major contribution to NASCAR. I will always remember his cheerful smile when he was “out in the field” doing his job. His legacy will live on forever! #ByrnesStrong

Jules Bianchi

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Photo: http://www.youtube.com

I remember this terrifying accident and have been trying to forget about it. However, I will never forget the amazing talent that Jules Bianchi displayed. In 2014, Bianchi was involved in a gruesome accident during the Japanese Grand Prix. Track officials were trying to remove the stranded Sauber of Adrian Sutil and Bianchi crashed into the recovery vehicle. Wet weather played a major role in his accident. Bianchi spent months in a medically induced coma and passed away on July 17, 2015. Hearing this news made my heart drop. Bianchi gave the Manor F1 Team its first points in Formula One’s biggest race: Monaco Grand Prix. Also, Jules was headed for greatness with Ferrari in the future. It is a shame that we did not get to see him win multiple world championships. He had the highest upside of any young open wheel driver in the world. Bianchi leaves behind his family who supported him every step of the way. #ForzaJules

Justin Wilson

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Photo: http://www.thejudge13.com

I remember this tragic day like it was yesterday. It started off as an exciting day of racing at the Pocono Raceway. There was so much overtaking in this race that it reminded me of a restrictor plate race in NASCAR. Knowing that, I feared the Big One and unfortunately it happened. Race leader, Sage Karam, crashed out of the lead and debris from his car struck Wilson’s helmet. At first, I did not think that anything bad had happened. However, I became extremely nervous when I saw tons of medical personnel surrounding Wilson’s car. Reality struck me when I saw them preparing to airlift Wilson to a local hospital. Flashbacks of October 16, 2011, ran through my mind. I thought, “Please do not let this be another Dan Wheldon-like situation.” My worst fears were confirmed when Justin Wilson passed away on August 24, 2015, from a brain injury. I will miss watching the “Gentle Giant” race. Wilson always drove for smaller teams in IndyCar and never joined one of the heavyweights until this year. Too bad we never got to see how Wilson would have done for Andretti Autosport full-time. I will always remember Justin Wilson. He leaves behind a wife and two daughters. #WilsonStrong

*Very emotional stories, sad times, we lost great people in 2015, but we must continue into the future. I miss Byrnes, Bianchi, and Wilson. However, their legacies will live on forever*