On the surface, Alonso and Red Bull makes little sense

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Despite Sebastian Vettel’s three consecutive World Championships, there are still plenty of people who believe Fernando Alonso is the best overall driver in Formula One. And this weekend, a rumor has emerged that he could be linked to Red Bull, widely considered the best car.

The saying goes that if Alonso was paired with the best car, he’d have added to his tally of two titles by now.

But only once in the last seven years (including 2013), has that been the case. His move from Renault to McLaren for 2007 kept him in the front-running chassis, but ever since, he’s struggled to ring the neck out of the third or fourth-best cars on the grid.

To see Alonso in an Adrian Newey-designed chassis would be a dream for those who feel both are the best at their respective disciplines. And to see Alonso take on Vettel, directly, in equal machinery seems tantalizing when you first hear it.

It also makes little to no sense from a practical and realistic standpoint.

Why, you ask? The last – and really only – time Alonso had a teammate who pushed him an entire season was Lewis Hamilton in that solitary, fracturing 2007 season at McLaren. And that internal battle between the two of them, and alleged favoritism towards Hamilton by the team, cost them the championships.

Vettel has already proven himself a ruthless assassin behind the wheel; a killer driver with his helmet on to counter his childish enthusiasm in interviews and on podiums.

He has Red Bull fully behind him, and in some respects, he almost calls the shots entirely. When Red Bull has made car upgrades, Vettel has consistently gotten them first. When Vettel violated team orders at Malaysia earlier this year, he wasn’t penalized despite superseding management. For that matter, he pretty much drove the stake through Mark Webber’s heart and career.

Red Bull has given everything  it has to Vettel, and like Ferrari, has established itself as a team with distinct number one and two drivers. The model has worked flawlessly because with the best car, Vettel has delivered the goods and Webber brought home enough points on a consistent basis to help secure three straight Constructor’s Championships.

Ferrari is now re-assessing its game to try to help Alonso. The addition of James Allison as chassis technical director reunites them after he and Alonso won the two titles with Renault in 2005 and 2006.

When Ferrari is stronger, Formula One is stronger. Alonso’s done everything in his power to win two of the last three titles despite a strategy muck-up in Abu Dhabi in 2010, and a down-on-performance chassis in 2012. Alonso going to Red Bull would practically write off Ferrari without a proper, top-line replacement.

It would be criminal for Alonso, who is under contract with Ferrari through 2016 and has said before he’d finish his career with Scuderia, not to have earned a title for Ferrari given his efforts since 2010.

And while the thought of him taking on Vettel in equal cars sounds great on the surface, it could deteriorate into toxicity faster than an under-inflated tire crashing over the curbs.  Good for drama? Perhaps. But good for the whole of F1 and more teams having a shot to win? Definitely not.

Cooper solidifies PWC GT presence with Callaway Corvette

Callaway, Cooper, Gill. Photo: PWC
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Pirelli World Challenge could use a “face” of the series from a driving standpoint, and American Michael Cooper is a good candidate to fill that role for 2018.

Cooper, 27, has won PWC Touring Car, GTS and, most recently the SprintX GT titles within the series and has quickly blossomed into one of the series’ top GT stars.

It’s been a rapid rise for the Syosset, N.Y. native, entering into a world filled with series stars and champions such as Johnny O’Connell, Patrick Long, Alvaro Parente and a host of others.

But under O’Connell’s tutelage, Cooper admirably filled the rather gaping shoes vacated by Andy Pilgrim at Cadillac Racing, steering the Cadillac ATS-V.R to multiple race wins in the last two years – including a sweep of this year’s season finale weekend at Sonoma.

Cooper and Jordan Taylor were the model of consistency in SprintX this year, winning once at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park and surviving contact at Circuit of The Americas to take that title.

With Cadillac withdrawing its ATS-V.R program at the end of the year though, Cooper was left a free agent for 2018. Fortunately with one door closed another opened, in the form of the GM-blessed but full Callaway Competition USA effort with its Callaway Corvette C7 GT3-R that will come Stateside next year. Cooper and Daniel Keilwitz will be in the team’s two cars for the full season; the car was fully unveiled last week at the PRI Show in Indianapolis.

The Callaway is a proven commodity in Europe but couldn’t run in the U.S. unless the path was cleared by one of GM’s factory programs to end a direct, potential head-to-head competition.

Moving from the Cadillac to the Callaway Corvette should be a natural transition, Cooper said last week.

“It worked out incredibly well that GM decided to allow Calloway to run the car in the United States and it created an opportunity for me that wouldn’t have been there otherwise,” he told NBC Sports. “I talked to a lot of other GT teams and at the end of the day, I felt like this was the best direction for me to be competitive next year and to also continue furthering my career with General Motors.”

Indeed Cooper has graduated from the Blackdog Speed Shop Chevrolet Camaro Z/28.R in GTS to the Cadillac and now to the Callaway Corvette. Cooper hailed the Cadillac team for what they did for his career growth.

“Working with Cadillac Racing has been instrumental in developing my abilities both on and off the track,” he said. “So I’m definitely a much more well-rounded driver now and have a lot of experience in the World Challenge GT field, so I kind of know what to expect going into that first race and going into that first corner in St. Pete.”

As noted, the car’s success in Europe means it’s a well-oiled machine by the time Reeves Callaway has worked with PWC to bring it Stateside next year. And as Cooper explained, discussions had been underway for a bit of time to ensure his presence in this car and team.

“I think the car is going to be extremely capable. It’s already won championships and races in Europe. I think, in bringing it over here, we’re going to hit the ground running straight away,” he said.

“Calloway had wanted me to come drive for them in July or August. We always kept in touch since then, and there was a lot of work trying to put together a program before they decided that they were going to do a fully fledged factory program. So once they made that decision, I think the pieces were kind of in place already, and the conversations had been had to be able to say ‘You’re going to be our guy.’”

December is late for IMSA programs to get finalized, but it’s relatively early for PWC, with the season not starting until mid-March in St. Petersburg. An extensive testing program should follow, as Callaway establishes its U.S. base and infrastructure.

“It’s definitely early for a Pirelli World Challenge program to be announced in December when we start racing in March. So that’s very good,” he said. “But, the team has a lot of work ahead of them in terms of getting infrastructure set up here in the United States, because a lot of their racing program has been in Europe. So, there will be a testing program, but they have to get the infrastructure in place first. But, we’ll be well prepared for St. Pete, I’m certain of it.

“Last year was the first year when I could sit back, kick my feet up, and know what I was doing next year. So, to be able to have everything done and be able to announce it this early on makes my life less stressful and now I can just focus on preparing myself and my team for next year.”