Fernando Alonso, Toyota, World Endurance Championship, Spa, 2018

Will more F1 drivers follow Alonso’s lead? Todt thinks so

2018 F1 season

Posted on

| Written by and

FIA president Jean Todt expects to see more F1 drivers follow the lead of Fernando Alonso by racing in other championships.

Alonso has raced in the Indianapolis 500 and made his debut in the World Endurance Championship in the last 12 months, alongside his F1 duties. He scored his first WEC victory last weekend driving for Toyota.

Todt praised the enthusiasm of drivers who choose to compete in multiple categories.

“I think all those drivers who are competing are all passionate,” he said at a media briefing last weekend. “Whether they’re a star, whether they’re driving in Formula 1, whatever, I think it’s great.

“I felt it was very brave of Kimi [Raikkonen] when he went into rallying. So I think it’s very good to have that.”

In the sixties and seventies it was common to see F1 drivers racing in multiple championships. Jim Clark, who Todt called “one of my heroes”, was among those who forged the path Alonso is now following by taking on races like the Indianapolis 500.

By the eighties and nineties F1 drivers increasingly focused on grand prix racing only. But Todt expects to see more drivers racing in other series.

Fernando Alonso, Toyota, World Endurance Championship, Spa, 2018
Alonso reveals his ‘long regret’ over missed 2015 Le Mans chance
“I think it will come back,” he said. “Alonso last year did also participate [in] another kind of racing. You have some drivers who went into Formula E. I think it’s very healthy to have those opportunities for drivers.”

Alonso’s packed schedule of F1 and WEC commitments has prompted concerns he may have taken on too much. But Todt pointed out it is important to keep drivers motivated.

“If you want to have a driver [who is] very competitive and very happy you must try to make sure that he is in the most friendly surroundings. So he must be happy.”

2018 F1 season

Browse all 2018 F1 season articles

Author information

Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

24 comments on “Will more F1 drivers follow Alonso’s lead? Todt thinks so”

  1. FlatSix (@)
    8th May 2018, 11:03

    I think we should not forget the superstar Fernando Alonso is in the motorsport world. I was at the opposite side of the track in the grandstand at Spa when the autograph window opened. The masses Alonso pulled to the Toyota stand were immense. Even back in 2015 both Hülkenberg AND Webber together didn’t draw that much attention.

    At every time of asking I managed to get Webber his autograph, and got Hülkenberg’s one too by just standing in the line. If you were not right there you’d still be miles away from even seeing Alonso’s face.

    What I’m trying to say is many F1 drivers want to do a Le Mans tourist trip, but let’s not forget the entry must be attractive for the team as well, on top Toyota very much had to sideline one of its key drivers. And no F1 driver is interested in a pro-am GTE car I’d say…. Unless a full season is achievable or one has a realistic chance of winning Le Mans I don’t see much interest growing.

    In similar fashion I think not much drivers would go to Indy. It’s not all that different from F1 (compared to endurance racing).

  2. I doubt it. At least, the rest of the current full-time F1 drivers haven’t really shown any willingness towards competing in other forms of Motorsport/single races of other forms of Motorsport.

  3. I think it will come back

    When did it stop?

  4. This is kind of off topic, but kind of on it. I do think more drivers will follow Alonso. I think Alonso is doing what he is doing because he lacks options to actually win something. F1 is a dead end for him right now. People will say it is his fault and maybe it is, but regardless of opinion, no-one can argue that he lacks options right now.

    So on to my point. I was thinking about the Ricciardo options for next year. The truth is that there aren’t many.

    The first prerequisite is talent of course. If you don’t have it, no seats are open. Let’s just assume he has it and put that discussion to one side. The next thing is the available seats. Race winning seats that is. That leaves us with Merc and Ferrari followed by Red Bull. No other seat is viable.

    What concerns me here is the increased push for B teams and development drivers. RB have done it for years, but it seems like Ferrari now have 2 B teams in HAAS and Sauber and Merc says that they are open to it as well. It makes sense to have them. RB have TR and have a training ground for their development drivers. Drivers get drafted into the RB system early and then helped through the lower ranks before hopefully making it to TR and then RB.

    So my point is this. It is highly unlikely that anyone other than a RB junior will ever get to drive a TR or a RB F1 car. Even top drivers like Alonso and Hamilton are locked out. Now Ferrari have their B teams and development drivers and Merc also have guys like Occon at FI.

    So if you have this train of drivers in lower teams coming through the ranks, does it decrease the likelyhood of a top driver being able to change teams. Take Merc for instance. If Bottas fails, then really they should promote Occon. At Ferrari, LeClerc is a little inexperienced for now, but imagine that both Merc and Ferrari go full RB style and have a full train of drivers in the wings.

    Let’s then take the case of Carlos Sainz. He’s a Red Bull guy, but he can’t get a RB seat. But he also can’t go anywhere. Even if RB release him from contract, Merc and Ferrari won’t touch him because they have their own development drivers. That then locks Sainz into driving for tier 2 teams forever. Also look at Hulkenburg. He has no backing so is completely locked out.

    It just feels to me like we are moving to this 2 tier system for F1. You have the top 3 or hopefully 4 teams. They lock out the front row and then their 2nd tier teams fight out level 2 of the comp. That would be bad enough, but now we also have the drivers locked into this tier system as well.

    Bad luck if you a the next Senna, but you chose to be a RB driver because in 2011 they were on top of the world. Now you are stuck at RB and they don’t have a winning car. Then you do an Alonso and look to LeMans and Indycar to give you something to drive for.

    1. I think you’re over-analysing it. Sure teams have their junior talents, but if they can get their hands in extraordinary talent, I don’t think they’ll think it twice. Mercedes had two junior drivers in Ocon and Wehrlein and chose Bottas, didn’t they? Ferrari also always tries to have the best driver in the grid in one car (Schumacher, Raikkonen, Alonso, Vettel).

      Red Bull could be an exception, but even they seem to have had a great series of young drivers (Vettel, Ricciardo, Verstappen) that allowed them to do that. You can’t be sure that will continue to be the case.

  5. There is always a risk in participating outside Formula 1. Pietro Fittipaldi’s crash left him with broken feet and it didn’t even look that bad. And lets not forget Kubica’s ruined career.

    Certainly most teams won’t let their drivers participate elsewhere, I’m sure that even Todt, when he was the Ferrari team principal, wouldn’t let his drivers drive outside F1. Alonso is just leveraging his special status in McLaren, I bet it was one of his requirements to stay.

    1. I agree, Robert Kubica is the example I think of too, but also Michael Schumacher got a neck injury when racing on a motorbike after his first retirement. Even though he was cleared to race again in F1 I always felt there was too much risk for him to return to F1.

    2. @afonic, I agree that the risk of being injured whilst competing in another series is one reason why team bosses have frequently blocked their drivers from competing in other series.

      As @drycrust notes, after Kubica’s accident all those years ago, a lot of teams imposed further restrictions on their drivers competing in other series, and as we saw with Pietro Fittipaldi, even in the LMP1 class, which has the most rigorous safety standards in the WEC, there is still a risk of a pretty serious accident occurring. He is just the most recent figure, but we have also seen Davidson and Nakajima suffer from fractured vertebrae a few years ago (and those accidents occurred in a full blown factory effort in the LMP1 class), whilst not that long ago we also saw Duval having to skip the 24 Hours of Le Mans because he was too heavily concussed after a crash in the practise sessions.

      In the case of Alonso, it would seem that there is possibly another factor in play which might explain why Brown has acquiesced to Alonso’s request. There are reports that McLaren have been attending the ACO’s committees on the 2020 regulation packages – now, whilst originally they were mainly attending because they wanted to move into the GT category (like many other manufacturers, they could use their GT3 cars as a starting point), but in more recent meetings they have reportedly been sending a fairly sizeable delegation to the working groups on the LMP1 regulations and apparently been dropping some pretty heavy hints to the ACO that, if the regulations are right, they would consider entering the LMP1 category instead.

      Zak Brown is, after all, already familiar with the world of sportscar racing given his involvement in United Autosports, which races LMP2 spec cars in the European Le Mans Series and also in IMSA sanctioned events in the US, and it was his team that Norris and Alonso raced with in Daytona. It is quite likely that he is driving the possible push of McLaren into sportscar racing – in which case, Alonso would probably find it very easy to win approval from Brown to compete in the WEC. If Brown is serious about a possible WEC entry for McLaren in some form, it might even be quite useful for him to loan Alonso to the WEC to further his links in the WEC’s paddock – not to mention that the ACO might, in turn, be a bit more favourably disposed towards McLaren if Alonso does help raise the profile of the WEC after the loss of Porsche and Audi in quick succession.

      1. It makes sense for McL to delve in other motorsports, something they haven’t done for a while – IIRC since Bruce was alive. They aren’t simply a racing team now, they’re an automotive conglomerate, and they need all the publicity they can get. I’m sure the 488 gets a huge sales boost by simply being present at GT3/GT2 events, and McL must be counting on that too.

        wanted to move into the GT category (like many other manufacturers, they could use their GT3 cars as a starting point)

        Their GT3 customer program has seen some success – Shane van Gisbergen won the Bathurst 12 Hours with the 650S. I think they might pull a Porsche and have entries in both GTE as well as LMP – one for exposure of an existing car, the other for brand building and development.

  6. I get what you are saying but I do not think it is written in stone that teams will always only ever promote their junior drivers. Sure, they invested in them and gave them opportunity, and in some cases managed to keep those drivers for themselves rather than seeing them go to other teams. However, nothing prevents them from hiring a top driver, not from within their family, once a seat becomes available, rather than one of their junior drivers. They may back a junior driver on their B team but that doesn’t mean that driver gets an automatic promotion, especially if the time spent on said B team has shown him to be not ready, or not what they had hoped etc etc. Case in point, many seem to be of the opinion that DR will end up either at Mercedes or Ferrari, and not stay in his family at RBR. I also think Renault might be an interesting possibility for him as he could potentially make that team ‘his’ and not be under the shadow of Max, or LH, or SV.

    1. The above meant as a response to @mickharrold

  7. I would like to see it happen, but I highly doubt it too. Some fellow members above mentioned already most reasons why I do not believe it will be a trend. There are some other reasons against it, so there’ll be just few exceptional cases from time to time, like HULK and ALO.

  8. While it is true that Fernando’s lack of options in F1 probably pushed him to look elsewhere, I think that Fernando is a proper racer. Racing is the main thing in his life. Contrary to someone like Lewis Hamilton, who spends most of his time off-track building his celebrity and trying to become an american-like A-list star. Finally, I think many drivers on the grid would be willing to attempt what Fernando is doing, but it’s a risk they don’t want to take. I don’t mean risk of injury, but risk of harming their reputation. If Fernando qualified behind the midfield at Indy I think it would have harmed his reputation. If his laptimes at Spa last weekend were a couple of tenths off his teammates, it would have reflected poorly. But instead he’s been a top performer at both. I just hope before retirement, that Alonso gets a chance to drive a car that can win races. I tend to think he is the best driver on the grid.

  9. Alonso is doing this because he is not winning in F1.
    And we have 21 races on the calendar. Too dificult to do other series, so it won’t be a trend.

    1. Disagree. I think he would look outside F1 even if he was winning.
      He wants a triple crown – it’s that simple.

  10. I like drivers competing in other categories but I don’t want everything to become the “Alonso show” (or whichever driver is involved).

    Indy 500 felt like the Alonso 500 and WEC is going the same way now. They should compete and show what they can do but I don’t want it to negatively affect other Championships by taking all the focus away from the regular competitors.

    F1 drivers being involved needs to promote other series and improve them – not just act as a one-off novelty event.

    1. @petebaldwin Well said. I Found it quite strange they changed the date of a WEC event so just one driver can participate, leaving other regular drivers with issues regarding their schedule.

    2. I think Alonso is a special case. I doubt any of the top drivers in F1 want any part of the Indy 500.
      Sure they would relish the attention Alonso received, but is it worth smacking into a concrete barrier at 230 mph?
      RIC and BUT both said the thought of racing there gives them the creeps and I’m sure HAM shares that feeling even though he belittled the race and questioned the skill (or his perceived lack thereof) of the drivers.
      Bottom line is it takes massive stones to race Indy – the possibility of death or serious injuries are much more likely than in F1.
      Alonso is a different dude, he has the skill (yes it does take skill) and is willing to take the risk. I don’t think VET or HAM are made of the same fabric as him and would be willing to risk their necks and legacys. And I can’t blame them?

      1. Alonso certainly is special and I absolutely love him doing different series.

        The cynic in me can also see that is a bit of a PR exercise for both McLaren, WEC nad Toyota Gazoo Racing. I think Zak Brown would have done anything Fernando wanted last year to stop him from walking. McLaren were/are still short on sponsors and who knows what would have happened to the ones they had if they failed to keep Alonso for this year.
        WEC has definitely gained media coverage for Alonso’s participation and good on them for embracing his entry. I don’t like the way Toyota shelved Anthony Davidson though – total lack of respect after what he has done for them. Also, the only competition Toyota reallybhave in LMP1 is reliability.
        Still, all that being said, I will be totally supporting Alonso in anything he races.

      2. Mark in Florida
        9th May 2018, 2:21

        Well said Benny, Europeans do sometimes knock the Indy car boys but they really are a talented bunch. Not many guy’s can come into the Indy series and make an impact like Alonso did. He is confident in his abilities and it shows. Mario Andretti was like that he raced in many different categories and won. I would like to see more drivers come over and race in America and put their reputation on the line. One racer from Indy that could potentially do well in F1 is Josef Newgarden. That kid is a racer but there is just too much prejudice against Americans in F1 in my opinion for him to get any kind of invite to test.

  11. Teams may not like it too much due to the risk of injury, look at Kubica, but then you see what some of them do on social media like the Red Bull guys racing dune buggies, or them having the soccer match in Monaco each year, there is probably more risk in their outside activities than other forms of racing.

    I think with 21 races teams and drivers probably are more concerned with them burning out. Hartley done 4 or 5 races last year as well as his other driving and said he was exhausted at the end of the season.

    I think is great what Alonso it doing but I think more so as frustration due to his current situation – I cant see too many following suit.

  12. Racingdave
    9th May 2018, 8:44

    A lot of people site that getting injured in lesser series is a problem and risk F1 teams are not prepared to take. Lest we forget Jim Clarke perished in lesser series that wasn’t even a championship race – joey Dunlop the same. Many drivers over the years were killed or injured in testing. Not sure what my point is but I certainly don’t think any less of these people and the only thing is the what IF’s.

    I’d rather see the passion and character of people doing what they love – hopefully modern safety standards will negate any deaths or injury but as we know there are no promises.

    Also drivers have huge hole in their driving with limited testing – how many miles can you do in a warehouse atop a robot…..

  13. There were a few WEC fans with their noses out of joint moaning on Twitter, that F1 fans weren’t knowledgeable enough to follow their sport when an F1 driver enters. No kidding.

  14. You mean to say that the F1 drivers of today could stoop to driving in other categories, just like the greats of history used to do every weekend?????

    Unthinkable!

    How could they?

    The marketing people will loose exposure.

    FFS, get out of the bubble, it’s a lovely morning & that’s the smell of fresh coffee. Race.

Comments are closed.