Andretti: Ferrari’s struggles could force Alonso away

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1978 Formula 1 world champion and American racing legend Mario Andretti believes that Fernando Alonso could walk away from Ferrari if the team does not improve quickly after yet another difficult start to the season in 2014.

Two-time champion Alonso joined Ferrari in 2010 in a move that was supposed to take both driver and team back to their glory days. However, despite finishing as the championship runner-up on three occasions, Alonso has failed to enjoy the same kind of success with the team that he did with Renault. The car that has come out of Maranello since 2008 has rarely been the quickest on the grid, and Andretti believes that this could be enough to force the Spaniard to leave.

“Ferrari cannot be fighting for the final point,” he told gpupdate.net. “It’s not good for Ferrari and it’s not good for Formula 1. They need to be up front. But they know it.

“You can tell that everyone is frustrated, beginning with Luca di Montezemolo. I think the drivers are using every bit of restraint not to express themselves.”

For Andretti, Alonso is in a race against time. At the age of 32, he might be entering the final five years of his career, and a move away from Ferrari may be necessary if he is to add to his pair of championships.

“He’s still at the top of his game and he cannot afford to lose too many seasons,” Andretti said. “So I’m sure if the proper opportunity comes up he’ll consider it.

“When Lewis made the decision to go to Mercedes, lots of people were saying, ‘What the hell is he thinking?’ But look at what has happened. You never know what the next opportunity could be at the very top.”

The speculation surrounding Alonso’s future has been rife since the middle of last summer, when he joked that he wanted a Red Bull car for his birthday. In Singapore last year, Martin Whitmarsh suggested that McLaren would be interested in signing Alonso should be become available, but with a clear succession plan featuring Kevin Magnussen and Stoffel Vandoorne, it is difficult to see a place for him at Woking. Also, there might still be some scars from the dispute in 2007 that saw Alonso leave the team after just a single season.

That said, his enormous ability might be too big a lure for McLaren to refuse. All the while, Alonso remains adamant that he will see out his career with Ferrari, but it remains to be seen whether he stays true to his word in the face of another difficult year.

Coyne transitioning from underdog to Indy 500 threat

Photo: IndyCar
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For most of the team’s existence, Dale Coyne Racing has been the Chicago Cubs of American Open Wheel Racing – a team whose history was more defined by failures, at times comically so, than success.

The last decade, however, has seen the tide completely change. In 2007, they scored three podium finishes with Bruno Junqueira. In 2009, they won at Watkins Glen with the late Justin Wilson.

The combination won again at Texas Motor Speedway in 2012, and finished sixth in the 2013 Verizon IndyCar Series championship. That same year, Mike Conway took a shock win for them in Race 1 at the Chevrolet Dual in Detroit.

Carlos Huertas scored an upset win for them in Race 1 at the Houston double-header in 2014, and while 2015 and 2016 yielded no wins, Tristan Vautier and Conor Daly gave them several strong runs – Vautier’s best finish was fourth in Race 2 at Detroit, while Daly finished second in Race 1 at Detroit, finished fourth at Watkins Glen, and scored a trio of sixth-place finishes at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, Race 2 at Detroit, and the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

And 2017 was set to possibly be the best year the team has ever had. Sebastien Bourdais gave the team a popular win in the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, and then rookie Ed Jones scored back-to-back top tens – 10th and sixth – at St. Pete and the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach to start his career.

But, things started unraveling at the Indianapolis 500. Bourdais appeared set to be in the Fast Nine Pole Shootout during his first qualifying run – both of his first two laps were above 231 mph –  before his horrifying crash in Turn 2.

While Jones qualified an impressive 11th and finished an even more impressive third, results for the rest of the season became hard to come by – Jones only scored two more Top 10s, with a best result of seventh at Road America.

But, retooled for 2018, the Coyne team is a legitimate threat at the 102nd Running of the Indianapolis 500.

Bourdais, whose No. 18 Honda features new sponsorship from SealMaster and now ownership partners in Jimmy Vasser and James “Sulli” Sullivan, has a win already, again at St. Pete, and sits third in the championship.

And Bourdais may also be Honda’s best hope, given that he was the fastest Honda in qualifying – he’ll start fifth behind Ed Carpenter, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power, and Josef Newgarden.

“I think it speaks volumes about their work, their passion and their dedication to this program, Dale (Coyne), Jimmy (Vasser) and Sulli (James Sullivan) and everybody from top to bottom. I can’t thank them enough for the opportunity, for the support,” Bourdais said of the team’s effort.

Rookie Zachary Claman De Melo has been progressing nicely, and his Month of May has been very solid – he finished 12th at the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the IMS Road Course and qualified a strong 13th for the “500.”

“It’s been surreal to be here as rookie. I’m a bit at a loss for words,” Claman De Melo revealed after qualifying. “The fans, driving around this place, being with the team, everything is amazing. I have a great engineer, a great group of experienced mechanics at Dale Coyne Racing.”

While Conor Daly and Pippa Mann struggled in one-off entries, with Mann getting bumped out of the field in Saturday qualifying, Daly’s entry essentially puts three Coyne cars in the race – Daly’s No. 17 United States Air Force Honda is a Dale Coyne car that has been leased to Thom Burns Racing.

Rest assured, the days of Coyne being an “also ran” are long gone, and a Coyne car ending up in Victory Lane at the biggest race of the year would complete the Chicago Cubs analogy – the Cubs won a World Series title in 2016, and an Indy 500 triumph would be the crowning achievement in Coyne’s career.

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