Start, Le Mans 24 Hours,. 2017

Toyota could consider Alonso for Le Mans entry

F1 Fanatic Round-up

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In the round-up: Toyota WEC boss Rob Leupen suggests that the Japanese marque would be open to running Fernando Alonso in the Le Mans 24 Hours.

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After word that sharks fins may be here to stay after all, @strontium offers this measured observation.

Last year F1 was looking forward to having good looking cars. Obviously I’d rather they got rid of the shark fin for this very reason, but F1 ought to decide whether they’re targeting aesthetics or performance. If “a fast car is a good looking car”, then fair enough, but the inability to choose a direction is quite irritating, because it leaves us with a car that neither reaches its performance potential but still looks ridiculous. If you look at the 2017 Mercedes launch, it had no shark fin, no coat hanger (and needless to say, no flip flop over the cockpit), and it looked pretty good.

One of the problems the shark fins make very noticeable (but are not a cause of), performance wise, is the length. Compare it to a 2008 shark fin and it will show very clearly how long wheelbases are now. A long car means not only less manoeuvrability through corners (a wider turning radius and therefore worse racing), but also cars have to gain 5+ metres in the braking zone to overtake. Reducing this to how it used to be would help the problem hugely, and with the wider cars this would be no problem (the cars were lengthened when refuelling was banned) as the fuel tank could be repositioned. All the cars are currently much narrower than their floors (they look like they’re on a baking tray), so there is plenty of space to give the teams a new challenge and increase the quality of the racing.

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  • 42 comments on “Toyota could consider Alonso for Le Mans entry”

    1. Roth Man (@rdotquestionmark)
      17th September 2017, 0:08

      Well Alonso won’t get an easier opportunity to tick off Le Mans on his triple crown to do list than that.

      1. Toyota had two hands on the trophy at some point during the 2016 and 2017 running, yet managed to lose. There have been instances of prototypes not winning from GT cars (as recently as 1995) and this year there were two LMP 2 cars on the overall podium.

        Alonso managed to suffer from Honda unreliability at the Indy 500, don’t pretend he’ll be immune from the Toyota curse at Le Mans…

        1. yeah, but realistically speaking Toyota will be the only 2 cars left in the class that has won every Le Mans since it has existed. All they have to do is finish and one of those two cars will win the race. You can’t ask for better odds than that anywhere.

          1. So it’s a bit like Mercedes in F1 between ’14-’16 ;)

            1. The Bishop of Bath and Wells
              17th September 2017, 9:40

              And Red Bull from ’10-’13. And Brawn in ’09. And Renault from ’05-’06. And Ferrari from ’00-’04. And McLaren from ’98-’99. And Williams from ’96-’97. And Benetton from ’94-’95. And Williams from ’92-’93. And McLaren from ’88-’91. And Williams from ’86-’87. And McLaren from ’84-’85. And so on.

            2. Many of the era’s you quote where much more competetive than Mercedes 14-16. 10-13 many others could have won.

            3. Bishop, I think a few Ferrari years, a few Macca Years, and a few Williams years were like the Merc years, but the others were much closer.

          2. @lancer033, as this year demonstrated, the LMP2 cars are now quick enough to present more of a problem to the LMP1 cars – Toyota only finished 8th after their problems, leaving them behind multiple LMP2 cars. Porsche, meanwhile, only just beat the top LMP2 car – a few more minutes in the pits and they would have lost that race (before this race a lot of observers had been expecting to see at least one LMP2 car on the podium, and that even overall victory wasn’t out of the question – as was very nearly the case).

            The LMP1 cars have a smaller pace advantage over the new LMP2 cars – which are now lapping at the same sort of speed as the LMP1 class was a few years ago – so if there are any reliability issues, it becomes much harder for them to make up lost time.

            There is also talk of possibly seeing a few privateer LMP1 entrants in 2018, and the ACO has promised that they will rebalance the current regulations to ensure that the privateers are more competitive with Toyota. Even if those privateer entrants were only as competitive as Rebellion was – which was around 5 seconds a lap slower – that would still leave you potentially vulnerable over the course of the race: if you lost half an hour due to reliability issues (and we have seen the prototypes lose much more than that in the past), then you might well lose the race if the privateer managed to have a relatively clear run.

            1. I’d say it was only because of the structural unreliability of the complete class, resultung in multi-hour car repairs, and on top of that a very small LMP1 field, that they got into the mix. Were one of these issues fixed, the speed difference wouldn’t allow an LMP2 car close to the front so close towards the end.

              It was thrilling to watch those last few hours though – from a viewer perspective it doesn’t get much better.

            2. That was good fun for several hours, kind of like the Leicester City of racing. Don’t forget Rebellion got disqualified afterwards.

              Next year, Toyota won’t have any rivals to beat on equal terms, so they can run with everything turned down a little, and use proven technology rather than throwing an arsenal of new bits at trying to beat Porsche.

              Surely going forward, BMW, Ford, Porsche and the other manufacturers will want their GTEs to be in the spotlight, competing for overall victory. Or some very well prepared IMSA teams may become eligible. So 2018 and Toyota could be as good an opportunity as Alonso gets. Good news for de Vries, Norris or whoever the McLaren reserve driver is… or even one more last last-ever race for Jenson Button!

      2. On the other hand, alonso with his name, can tick off le mans whenever he wishes.

      3. Don’t forget there are 3 drivers in a Le Mans car. So there’s 2 drivers who can fail Alonso, apart from the car itself.

    2. Regardless of performance (Or lack thereof) I think its been pretty clear that those at the top of Renault didn’t want Jolyon Palmer in the team to begin with & that he was only in that seat for this year due to an existing contract signed by the previous owners.

      He’s had awful reliability this year & has gone into more than 1 race having been able to do virtually no race preparation due to problems in practice. But even looking beyond that he’s only had equipment parity with Nico Hulkenberg on 3 occasions this year, 2 of which were hindered by unreliability. I mean the past 3-4 races the team haven’t even managed to get the timing transponders fitted correctly on his car & he’s vanished off timing screens for chunks of sessions & races.

      Surely a manufacturer backed team with the personnel it has should be able to give both there drivers equal equipment more often than not. I mean even Force India manage that & not only is there budget a lot smaller but I believe they have a smaller factory, Less staff & are a customer team.

      I don’t mean to defend Jolyon as honestly I don’t think he’s done enough to warrant that seat, However I also don’t believe the team have given him the best opportunity to show that he does. If your in a car or running an engine that sower than your team mate to begin with due to been a spec or sometimes several specs behind, Your not going to be able to challenge them.

      I wonder how often the 2 drivers will have specification parity next year? I bet it will be a lot more often than what Jolyon’s had.

      1. I do feel a bit sorry for Palmer, people have been perhaps unnecessarily overly critical of him quite a lot, and to be fair to him he has generally handled the criticism very professionally (for example, check out the Thursday driver press conference). It’s very true, as you say, he’s not done enough to warrant that F1 seat but he’s not had the best opportunities and isn’t anywhere near as bad as many critics and fans make out. It must be tough to perform well when everybody, even your team, says / does quite little positive.

        I think it would be a shame to see him ousted in Malaysia, they ought to give him the dignity of finishing this season.

        And thanks Keith for comment on the day (again), I feel honoured :)

      2. Sundar Srinivas Harish
        17th September 2017, 1:56

        Regardless of performance (Or lack thereof) I think its been pretty clear that those at the top of Renault didn’t want Jolyon Palmer in the team to begin with & that he was only in that seat for this year due to an existing contract signed by the previous owners.

        KMag was their first choice, but they lost him to Haas since they weren’t willing to offer more than a single-year contract, while he wanted a long(er) term. Palmer simply existed at that point.

        @strontium Yes, he certainly has been quite “British” when it comes to handling criticism. But to be honest, he simply does not have the pace to justify a seat in a rapidly improving team, and would be better off in a lower formula or his father’s management business.

      3. PeterG, the team at Enstone (whether branded Renault, Lotus or anything else) has tended to treat its second drivers pretty badly over the past few decades – they have a very extreme “lead driver” and “second driver” policy, and it is rare for them to treat their drivers equally.

        It is not a question of being unable to provide equal cars, since the team has the resources to do that – it is more the case that they have an intentional policy of prioritising one driver and doing the bare minimum required to get the other car onto the grid.

        That is why, as you note in your post, Hulkenberg has been given priority to receive updates and why the team commits more resources to his car. Because they made it clear that they want to build the team around him, he gets the most support: Palmer, by contrast, is effectively being used at this point to simply fulfil the requirement for the team to enter two cars.

        As you say, whilst Palmer is not a great driver, as the team has consciously decided not to bother supporting him that much, it is not surprising that he has struggled as a result.

        1. Thats the reason Webber didn’t go to Renault with Alonso…

      4. @PeterG ”the past 3-4 races the team haven’t even managed to get the timing transponders fitted correctly on his car & he’s vanished off timing screens for chunks of sessions & races.” – I wasn’t aware of that before, but if true, then that explains why his name has popped from around P10-P15 to last and back on the live timing screen in few of the recent races.

    3. Guys, did Keith already post the news about Rosberg joining Kubica’s management team?

      Also, apparently Stroll’s father offered to pay for Kubica’s test in a Williams.

      1. Sundar Srinivas Harish
        17th September 2017, 2:00

        Interesting. Renault should be on top of this, else they might lose yet another talent to Mercedes.

    4. It’s interesting to read the history of the McHonda relationship and then look at Honda saying they are targeting the top 3 with Torro Rosso. More over promising and under delivering methinks…

    5. If you’re wondering what will happen, remember, Alonso left McLaren who immediately won the WDC, declined RB who won 4 WDC with Vettel, declinced Brawn GP in 2009, left Ferrari that let Vettel replace him because they couldn’t compete in his eyes (Suzuka and Kubica he seems to forget), he declined Mercedes to be alongside Hamilton again not realizing what he said no to. Now…

      You could argue he couldn’t possibly know but just because you can’t spot the answer doesn’t mean it’s just ” tough luck”.
      And now he declines to race for McLaren-Honda.
      Hmmmm…. what could possibly go wrong here.

      1. Misrepresentation of note there. Alonso left Mclaren the first time because he could not be in an environment where the team principal felt he was racing Alonso. Therefore he felt hedid not have a chance to win 2008.
        The Red Bull offer was a passing comment and didn’t even make it to the the boardroom table.
        Brawn is the only one you got right but he didn’t have enough to go on there, so it’s a natural one I guess. He wanted to go to an established name instead of one that was created that year.
        And then Ferrari, the one that everyone jumps on. Alonso did brilliantly there and was there for many years without winning the championship. Vettel has been there a few years until his opportunity to be competitive this year. So are you saying that Alonso needed to be patient for 8 years until he had the right car under him. The media has misrepresented that scenario and you guys ate it up. No driver will stay 8 years and think, next year is the one. Alonso has been as loyal as anyone out there. It’s the headlines that are rubbish. I wish there was not this much hate out there.

        1. Alonso was close to winning the WDC with Ferrari twice, but saw them fall back over the years.
          It isn’t even sure Vettel will win this year’s WDC with Ferrari, never mind them winning the constructors title.
          Leaving Ferrari made sense at the time and the past 2 years.

          And who could have thought Honda would not get their act together?
          They were much feared for skipping the 2014 season as it meant they could develop their engine unrestricted that year…
          So Alonso and McLaren made an educated guess even if it turned out bad.

          The car is good enough, it even proves it this weekend and on all other high downforce tracks. If their engine was competitive too they’d be among the top teams.
          The puzzle is complete save one little piece.

        2. Mick, as you say, Honda did reportedly make an offer to him in 2008, but at that point in time the team was going through a major downturn in performance.

          This was, after all, a time when their customer team, Super Aguri, was able to out-perform the works team with a year old car in 2007 (with allegations that, later on in the season, Honda eventually began sabotaging Super Aguri because of the embarrassment about being beaten by them), and in 2008 they were having another atrocious year.

          Let’s be blunt – at the time, most people expected that the team which became Brawn would just be shut down altogether, and all the approaches which Honda had been making to other drivers and personnel were immediately cancelled when they pulled the plug.

          The fact that the team survived at all was not expected, and we know in retrospect that the survival of the team was, until Mercedes took them over, extremely precarious – they effectively only survived because Bernie advanced cash payments to them in order to keep the team alive whilst they looked for a buyer. Brawn might have looked good in retrospect, but in late 2008 and early 2009 nobody would have wanted to go to a team that looked to be hanging on by a thread.

          Mind you, in general @xiasitlo‘s posts have tended to be “eccentric” to say the least – at least this time there hasn’t been any random bold lettering or italics and posts that read like the hyperventilating gasps of a conspiracy theorist.

      2. @xiasitlo, what you omit in your analysis is that Alonso has been driving most of those cars well beyond where they technically were expected to be based on the year before he joined.

        The only WDC & WCC ever achieved by Renault during 20+ years, and 50% of all wins, came with a certain Mr Alonso at the wheel.
        McLaren was a distant 3rd in 2006, but scores the most points when Freddie joined them the next year.
        Ferrari was 4th in 2009! This dramatically changed when FA joined them with various wIns during that dominant RBR era.

        1. So refreshing to read some reminders of the realities of FA’s career, as opposed to more of the over-the-top non-factual tabloidy rhetoric we’ve been hearing all season, such as has been expressed by @xiasitlo

    6. Singapore race analysis.
      Vettel and the Red Bulls drive away from Raikkonen who holds up Hamilton for many laps.
      Verstappen tries the undercut, which is successfully defended by Vettel pitting the next lap.
      All this allows Ricciardo to go long and win the race.

      PS Alonso passes a few cars at the start but has to stop after an engine problem.

      1. Thanks, Just S. Yuuge timesaver at the dullest track on the calendar – the Valencia-at-night-in-Asia Bernie Bucks track.

        Glaring night lights and bleak in-car shots of safety fencing does not an exciting street circuit make. Wake me up in time for Suzuka.

      2. That’s what I’m expecting too, but you never know.

    7. I wish Toyota would offer him a full-time seat. I’d enjoy my F1 more without his whiney team radios and snarky attitude.

      1. Oh look, someone whining about Alonso again.

      2. @huhhii I enjoy his whiney team radios, especially in the last race, they made me laugh a bit more than usual, LOL.

      3. I’m waiting for Alonso’s RT messages about the Renault engine.

    8. Imagine Le Mans 2016 with Alonso in the role of Nakajima…

      1. Or Hamilton, or Vettel or any number of drivers. Yes, they would all be unhappy. They might even whine. Tongue in cheek.

        1. Mick, and that’s the difference. Alonso wouldn’t be just unhappy like those guys, he’d be devastated. Because as opposed to the Hamiltons and the Vettels, he’d have just lost his only single opportunity at a success in the entire year.

      2. Oh my, Keith, let’s not imagine that…
        Still would’ve been the highlight of his 2016 season though.

        A 2017 compilation video of Alonso being told over the radio “We have to retire the car, Fernando” would encompass mechanics from all 3 major racing series: F1, IndyCar and LeMans.

        Due to different race lengths, his stints before the retirements would’ve also gotten incrementally longer – 1h, 3h, 23h.
        Next, he would need to participate in the Dakar Rally to retire after 2 weeks of competition.

      3. He’d have gone into the pits, wouldn’t have left himself stranded out there…

    9. Or Hamilton, or Vettel or any number of drivers. Yes, they would all be unhappy. They might even whine. Tongue in cheek.

    10. This race could still be won by Hamilton, it’s just much more difficult than it normally is.

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