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Why is the Alonso leaving Ferrari rumor refusing to die down?

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Fernando Alonso celebrated his 32nd birthday a few days after last year’s Hungarian Grand Prix. In the paddock, many people gave him good wishes ahead of the day, and some were even kind enough to ask him: “What do you want for your birthday?”

When the Spaniard turned around and said: “Someone else’s car,” the rumor mill went into overdrive. Could Alonso – the man who was intended to revive Ferrari’s fortunes from 2010 – really be looking to leave?

Since then, the story has refused to lie down. Speculation linking him to McLaren emerged when it was revealed that Sergio Perez was under pressure (and ultimately dropped), but Alonso remained defiant. In fact, he was getting a bit irritated towards the end of the season when, in every press conference, he was asked the same question. “Will you be leaving Ferrari?”

Come 2014, little has changed. The same rumors linger, and after another poor start to the season and another title concession, it’s not surprising. You cannot blame Alonso for being frustrated. This glorious partnership that was intended to take both driver and team back to the top has not gone entirely to plan. Three championship runner-up trophies will mean little to either Alonso or Ferrari.

As per 2013, the main place that the rumor mill continues to spit out is McLaren. Jenson Button is 33 and nearing the end of his career; McLaren will be getting Honda engines for 2015, and could return to form. Although Alonso’s tenure with the team ended in the worst possible fashion – him walking away when relations with Lewis Hamilton soured – there are suggestions he could be angling for a move back. After all, he is one of the most naturally talented drivers on the grid, and ultimately wants a third world title before he retires. If Ferrari can’t give him that, someone else might.

The big problem with this story for me is that McLaren already has a succession plan in place. Namely, Stoffel Vandoorne is the man who puts a spanner in the works.

Vandoorne has consistently impressed throughout his junior career, much like Kevin Magnussen. He won on his GP2 debut in Bahrain last month, and is thought of very highly within the McLaren setup. Should Button opt to call it quits at the end of the 2016 season, having enjoyed one year with Honda power, Vandoorne appears to be the perfect driver to complement Magnussen. If McLaren did draft in Alonso as a replacement for Button, it would put Vandoorne’s F1 aspirations on the back burner.

Over the Spanish Grand Prix weekend, an even stranger rumor emerged: Alonso was angling for a move to Mercedes, the team that will most probably win both championships in 2014.

It must be hastened that, unlike the Newey to Ferrari rumor, this came out of nowhere. However, some corners of the paddock suggested that Alonso could come in as a replacement for Nico Rosberg, and re-join Lewis Hamilton.

Toto Wolff was asked about this rumor, and he looked perplexed, telling broadcasters “I wouldn’t change my line-up for the world.” Indeed, the Hamilton-Rosberg partnership looks to be very fruitful, having scored 197/215 possible points in 2014.

Alonso was then asked whether he’d be moving to Mercedes, but he just said: “No.”

Back to our original question. Why won’t the Alonso leaving Ferrari rumors go away? Because Ferrari still isn’t winning. Just one podium finish in the first five races is a very poor yield. The Spaniard continues to pull the car through the order and make it do things that it simply shouldn’t, but until he’s got the fastest car, it’s unlikely the rumor mill will give this one up.

I can appreciate why he would want to leave Ferrari, but where can he go? McLaren has the afore-mentioned succession plan, Mercedes has a perfect line-up, and so does Red Bull. A move to Lotus? Force India? Williams? Unlikely.

This story does split opinion in the paddock, but I for one cannot see him walking away from Ferrari at the end of 2014 because – disregarding everything else – he has few places to go.

He is still the unofficial number one driver, as suggested by Kimi Raikkonen’s odd strategy in Spain, and technical director James Allison is yet to design a car. His first will be in 2015. And who knows? Maybe that will be the year that the Alonso-Ferrari partnership finally lives up to the lofty expectations.

Urrutia takes dominant victory in Mid-Ohio Indy Lights opener

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Santiago Urrutia picked up his third victory of the 2016 Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires season with a dominant display on Saturday at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

Urrutia entered the Mid-Ohio weekend trailing championship leader Ed Jones by 24 points, but managed to cut the gap back down to single figures with a peerless display.

Urrutia started the race second alongside pole-sitter Felix Serralles, but a cleaner getaway from the rolling start allowed the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver to pull into the lead at the first corner.

It proved to be a lead that Urrutia would never relinquish as he worked the gap open across the rest of the race, going unchallenged en route to his third win of the season. His final advantage was 6.4 seconds.

“I’m very happy. The guys did a great job on the car,” Urrutia told IndyCar Radio after the race.

“The car was awesome, put the car on pole position for both races. It’s pretty good for the championship for me, so I’m pretty happy.”

Serralles duked for position with Andre Negrao and Dean Stoneman on the first lap, slipping behind both into fourth through Thunder Valley. Zach Veach also managed to dip past the Puerto Rican for P4 on the first lap, leaving Serralles with a mountain to climb.

Veach soaked up the pressure from Serralles before ultimately dropping back into fifth place on lap nine, his rival easing clear as he chased down Stoneman ahead.

For the final 15 laps of the race, the gap between Stoneman and Serralles rarely exceeded a second. However, the British Andretti Autosport driver managed to keep cool and retain the final podium position behind Negrao, who endured a lonely race to second to complete a one-two finish for SPM.

Veach finished fifth ahead of Jones, whose championship lead was reduced to just seven points as Urrutia also recorded the fastest lap and led the most laps, chalking up two bonus points in the process.

Zachary Claman de Melo managed to emerge victorious from a thrilling battle with Shelby Blackstock for P7, both surviving contact in the closing stages. Kyle Kaiser followed in P9 ahead of Garett Grist and Dalton Kellett, with Neil Alberico propping up the running order in P13.

Dixon to start 11th at Mid-Ohio after miscommunication (VIDEO)

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LEXINGTON, Ohio – After dominating most of this weekend at the Honda Indy 200, Scott Dixon will only start Sunday’s race (2 p.m. ET, CNBC) from 11th place on the grid following an odd and abnormal strategic mistake, and a miscommunication.

The driver of the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, who led both first and third practice, was told his time from earlier in Q2 would be enough to transfer into the Firestone Fast Six.

But that’s not quite what happened. Dixon’s generally luckless season rolled on and he will start 11th; the only upside, perhaps, is he started double that – 22nd and last – and won this race two years ago courtesy of a strategic masterstroke from Ganassi managing director Mike Hull.

“We made it on track on the new set of tires, but we waved it off,” Dixon told NBCSN’s Kevin Lee. “The team felt we’d be safe. I think it’d get faster, the rain was lightening, and they didn’t hear me. Times picked up drastically.

“The Target car has been fast all weekend. Bit of a miscommunication there. Kind of like how our season has been going.

“We’ve been hoping for (luck) for three or four races. It is what it is. We’ve put ourselves in quite a big hole, there.”

Dixon enters the weekend 83 points behind points leader Simon Pagenaud, who scored the pole position on Saturday to add insult to injury for Dixon and gain another point.

Red Bull GRC: Speed dominates in Washington, D.C.

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Scott Speed has his second consecutive win in Red Bull Global Rallycross, Saturday at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C., after also winning the most recent race at MCAS New River.

The defending series champion has also closed on his Volkswagen Andretti Rallycross teammate, Tanner Foust, who finished third in Saturday’s race.

Speed, in the No. 41 entry, got the strong launch off the line and proceeded to lead away from Bryan Herta Rallysport driver Patrik Sandell, who debuted a new Cuttwood livery on his No. 18 Ford Fiesta ST this weekend.

Meanwhile Chip Ganassi Rallycross driver Brian Deegan was third in his No. 38 NOS Energy Drink Ford Fiesta ST, ahead of Speed’s teammate Foust in the No. 34 Rockstar Energy Beetle.

Foust would later get around Deegan for third but neither of them had anything for the top two drivers.

While Speed dominated, Sandell’s Washington D.C. hot streak continued and he had his third podium of the season (second at Phoenix Round 1, won Dallas Round 3).

Meanwhile a flat right rear demoted Honda Red Bull Olbsergs MSE driver Sebastian Eriksson down to P10.

The finishing order? Speed, Sandell, Foust, Deegan and the second OMSE driver, Joni Wiman.

Steve Arpin (Ganassi) was sixth – a tied season worst result – ahead of SH Rallycross/DRR returning driver Nelson Piquet Jr.

Pagenaud secures sixth pole of 2016 at Mid-Ohio (VIDEO)

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LEXINGTON, Ohio – Scott Dixon had dominated the Honda Indy 200 weekend up to this point, but courtesy of another strategic backfire he does not have the pole position for Sunday’s Verizon IndyCar Series race (2 p.m. ET, CNBC) at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

Instead, Simon Pagenaud has secured his sixth Verizon P1 Award of the season in the No. 22 PPG Automotive Refinish Chevrolet for Team Penske, and set a new track record at the 2.258-mile road course in the process.

Dixon missed the Firestone Fast Six after the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet team determined that his lap in Q2 would be good enough to make it with rain on the horizon.

It wasn’t, and Dixon fell to 11th – which opened the floodgates for the rest of the field.

Pagenaud has the pole with a new lap of 1:03.8700, albeit not the fastest lap of the weekend (Dixon had that in third practice, 1:03.7244), one of two drivers to break into the 1:03s in qualifying.

“Tricky, tricky session,” said Pagenaud, who adds another bonus point to his tally this season. Pagenaud led Power by 47 points going into the weekend.

“It was more on me really because I have been struggling a little bit with my really bad lower back. They did a lot work on me. We didn’t need to do too much on the car, more on me this weekend. We put those Firestone red tires on and again, the car was beautiful. That was an interesting qualifying. The expectation of rain, no rain. There was some drops in Q2 that made it more difficult. And there at the end I think the strategy was perfect to start Q3.”

Will Power was second at 1:03.9381 in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet.

The rest of the top six? That’s all Americans – Josef Newgarden, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Charlie Kimball and Graham Rahal.

They’ve all made Firestone Fast Six appearances this year but it’s been relative dry spells. Pagenaud has made all eight and this was Power’s sixth.

This is the first one for Kimball (qualified second), Rahal (third) and Newgarden (fifth) since the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis, although both Rahal and Newgarden were sent to the rear of the field for infractions found in post-qualifying technical inspection.

Hunter-Reay makes the Fast Six for the first time since St. Petersburg, when he qualified sixth.

In Q1, there were no major surprises but disappointment for a handful of notables. After ending third practice sixth overall, Max Chilton was only seventh in his group, and frustrated with how much the track change. Meanwhile Spencer Pigot was only 10th and Marco Andretti 11th in the session – Andretti continuing to take the blame for his season long run of poor qualifying.

Pagenaud broke Dixon’s old track record of 1:04.5814 with a lap of 1:04.2483.

That new track record lasted all of one group, with Power going 1:04.1430 and Dixon 1:04.1942 in Q1, Group 2. Rahal was third ahead of the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports teammates, James Hinchcliffe and Mikhail Aleshin, and Alexander Rossi – who like the three who made the Fast Six also advanced out of Q1 for the first time since the Angie’s List Grand Prix.

Tony Kanaan was seriously frustrated after the session and refused to talk, and Sebastien Bourdais and RC Enerson were just behind in the session. Enerson, who’s had an impressive debut weekend for Dale Coyne Racing, was in the top six on his first run on Firestone reds before he made a mistake and got stuck in traffic on his second set. But 18th, four spots and 0.5 of a second clear of teammate Conor Daly, is still a solid first qualifying effort.

Q2 saw the track change as the threat of rain continued, but did not fully interrupt proceedings.

The surprise drops beyond Dixon were Helio Castroneves and Juan Pablo Montoya, who start seventh and eighth, then the Schmidt twins in ninth and 1oth and Rossi in 12th.

Once into the Fast Six, Pagenaud edged ahead of Power to secure the top spot, ahead of the quartet of Americans.

Times are below:

MidOQuals