With his thunder stolen by Vettel, Alonso finds himself on the outside looking in


Fernando Alonso was the man with the key to the 2015 driver market. For over a year, speculation about his future and a possible return to McLaren had been rife, but always something of a joke to the Spaniard. He continually batted away rumors in press sessions, laughing off talk of him leaving Ferrari.

He won’t be laughing now though. In a shock announcement, Sebastian Vettel confirmed today that he will be leaving Red Bull at the end of the season after six years at Milton Keynes. He seems to be bound for Ferrari, replacing Alonso, with Red Bull team boss Christian Horner going on record to say: “He’ll be a Ferrari driver, absolutely”.

Seb has stolen Fernando’s thunder, and the Spaniard’s position is far weaker than it was when he and Ferrari reportedly mutually terminated their contract on Thursday.

Alonso has been caught out by the speed at which this has all happened. After the meeting on Thursday, he looked to have the entire F1 grid bar Mercedes to choose from, with McLaren being the most obvious option. Honda will return to the sport in 2015 as McLaren’s power unit supplier, and was willing to pay whatever it took to get Alonso on board – even if it meant writing off his Ferrari contract as well as putting a huge salary on the table.

We all thought that it was a case of McLaren luring Alonso away from Maranello. Now, he appears to have nowhere else to go – and it’s all Sebastian Vettel’s fault.

This is a story that has caught like wildfire over the past few days. On Thursday, Alonso and Ferrari agreed to part company, albeit lacking an official announcement. Vettel reportedly agreed a new merchandise deal with Red Bull on the same day, only to then inform the team in a meeting on Friday night that he wants to exercise the get-out clause in his contract.

Vettel’s lack of success in 2014 has been the trigger for his departure. His deal stated that if he ranked outside the top three in the drivers’ championship on September 30th, he was free to leave.

According to reports, Vettel broke down in tears when he met Christian Horner on Friday night to inform him of his decision. However, Red Bull did not waste any time – the team had a plan in place, as proven by the decision to reveal Vettel’s move just hours after finding out itself, and confirming that Daniil Kvyat will be his replacement for 2015.

The theory before was that if Vettel were to move to Ferrari, Alonso would move in the opposite direction to Red Bull. By promoting Kvyat, this door was shut swiftly.

Fernando himself reckons it was never a viable option: “Red Bull was never a priority, so it’s not a big worry at the moment. As I said, I know what I want to do, and hopefully I will tell you soon.”

It may have never been a priority, but did give him some bargaining power with McLaren. The possibility of him going elsewhere existed: now, it does not. McLaren won’t be afraid of him bluffing about a move to Lotus or, as Felipe Massa joked, Caterham or Marusssia.

In reality, it’s unlikely Honda will change its stance. Alonso will still get a deal thought to near the $50m per year mark – astronomical figures are being banded about, such is his stock. However, the ink is not yet dry on any deal according to the team’s CEO Ron Dennis, meaning that nothing is certain by any means.

At Ferrari, Alonso has gone from hero to outsider in a matter of weeks. Many argued that he wielded too much power at Maranello, but now he has nothing. Marco Mattiacci and Sergio Marchionne are ready to bring in a new era, with Vettel leading the team’s charge. Even Kimi Raikkonen, who has been subject to so much criticism this season, is looking strong once again.

Alonso may claim that he has a wealth of options, but in reality, there are two: McLaren or a sabbatical. And the latter is one he will want to avoid, given that the whole reason for leaving Ferrari is so that he can win a third world title.

What a day for Formula 1. The sport has not been rocked by a driver announcement like this since Michael Schumacher’s move from Benetton to Ferrari back in 1996.

And we all know how that went.

Hunter Lawrence defends Haiden Deegan after controversial block pass at Detroit


Media and fan attention focused on a controversial run-in between Haiden Deegan and his Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing teammate Jordon Smith during Round 10 of the Monster Energy Supercross race at Detroit, after which the 250 East points’ Hunter Lawrence defends the young rider in the postrace news conference.

Deegan took the early lead in Heat 1 of the round, but the mood swiftly changed when he became embroiled in a spirited battle with teammate Smith.

On Lap 3, Smith caught Deegan with a fast pass through the whoops. Smith briefly held the lead heading into a bowl turn but Deegan had the inside line and threw a block pass. In the next few turns, the action heated up until Smith eventually ran into the back of Deegan’s Yamaha and crashed.

One of the highlights of the battle seemed to include a moment when Deegan waited on Smith in order to throw a second block pass, adding fuel to the controversy.

After his initial crash, Smith fell to seventh on the next lap. He would crash twice more during the event, ultimately finishing four laps off the pace in 20th.

The topic was inevitably part of the postrace news conference.

“It was good racing; it was fun,” Deegan said at about the 27-minute mark in the video above. “I just had some fun doing it.”

Smith had more trouble in the Last Chance Qualifier. He stalled his bike in heavy traffic, worked his way into a battle for fourth with the checkers in sight, but crashed a few yards shy of the finish line and was credited with seventh. Smith earned zero points and fell to sixth in the standings.

Lawrence defends Deegan
Jordon Smith failed to make the Detroit Supercross Main and fell to sixth in the points. – Feld Motor Sports

“I think he’s like fifth in points,” Deegan said. “He’s a little out of it. Beside that it was good, I don’t know. I wasn’t really paying attention.”

Deegan jokingly deflected an earlier question with the response that he wasn’t paying attention during the incident.

“He’s my teammate, but he’s a veteran, he’s been in this sport for a while,” Deegan said. “I was up there just battling. I want to win as much as everybody else. It doesn’t matter if it’s a heat race or a main; I just want to win. I was just trying to push that.”

As Deegan and Smith battled, Jeremy Martin took the lead. Deegan finished second in the heat and backed up his performance with a solid third-place showing in the main, which was his second podium finish in a short six-race career. Deegan’s first podium was earned at Daytona, just two rounds ago.

But as Deegan struggled to find something meaningful to say, unsurprisingly for a 17-year-old rider who was not scheduled to run the full 250 schedule this year, it was the championship leader Lawrence who came to his defense.

Lawrence defends Deegan
A block pass by Haiden Deegan led to a series of events that eventually led to Jordon Smith failing to make the Main. – Feld Motor Sports

“I just want to point something out, which kind of amazes me,” Lawrence said during the conference. “So many of the people on social media, where everyone puts their expertise in, are saying the racing back in the ’80s, the early 90s, when me were men. They’re always talking about how gnarly it was and then anytime a block pass or something happens now, everyone cries about it.

“That’s just a little bit interesting. Pick one. You want the gnarly block passes from 10 years ago and then you get it, everyone makes a big song and dance about it.”

Pressed further, Lawrence defended not only the pass but the decision-making process that gets employed lap after lap in a Supercross race.

“It’s easy to point the finger,” Lawrence said. “We’re out there making decisions in a split millisecond. People have all month to pay their phone bill and they still can’t do that on time.

“We’re making decisions at such a fast reaction [time with] adrenaline. … I’m not just saying it for me or Haiden. I speak for all the guys. No one is perfect and we’re under a microscope out there. The media is really quick to point a finger when someone makes a mistake.”

The media is required to hold athletes accountable for their actions. They are also required to tell the complete story.