Alonso’s ambition continues to leave the Formula 1 paddock guessing

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The driver market for the 2015 Formula 1 season has been one of the hottest topics for the paddock over the past few weeks. Ever since Sebastian Vettel confirmed in Japan that he would be turning his back on Red Bull for next year, tongues have been wagging with speculation of what the implications will be.

General consensus is that Vettel will be racing for Ferrari in 2015, following the example set by Michael Schumacher in the mid-90s when he plummed for a long-term project at Maranello that ultimately yielded five world championships and 72 grand prix victories.

So where does this leave Fernando Alonso? Earlier this month, we look at how he actually had very little room for manoeuvre following Vettel’s decision to call it quits at Red Bull. The team’s instant reaction was to promote Daniil Kvyat up from Toro Rosso, leaving Alonso with far less bargaining power for a possible move to McLaren.

Unquestionably, the car that everyone wants to drive at the moment is the Mercedes. The next opportunity for a seat with the German team comes in 2016 upon the expiration of Lewis Hamilton’s contract. Alonso’s hope is that the Briton will be on the move due to the deterioration of his relationship with teammate Nico Rosberg, thus leaving a seat open at the quickest team on the grid.

However, what is the likelihood of Hamilton bailing on Mercedes? He’s leading the world championship by 17 points at the time of writing, and is poised to clinch his second F1 title. He has been by far the class act in the field this season, winning more than half of the races that have been held. Him leaving simply doesn’t make sense.

So this leaves Alonso with plenty to think about. McLaren doesn’t want him for a season to then lose him, and elsewhere on the grid, there are no desirable seats on offer. It appears to be a pretty bleak outlook.

And yet Alonso is in high spirits. He feels very relaxed and happy about his future. He has claimed for some time that his next move is “so obvious”, and said yesterday in Austin that he has an “ambitious plan” which is currently falling into place.

And that’s the strange part about this. Moving to McLaren wouldn’t be dubbed an “ambitious plan”. It’s a pretty simple one, actually. So what else could it be?

There are a number of interesting theories currently being banded about the paddock. One that has arisen in recent weeks concerns German manufacturer Audi, which has been linked with an F1 entry in the not-too-distant future. It denied the reports, calling them “pure speculation”, and it appears to be a case of putting two and two together before coming to five. At the same point though, a project with the four rings does have plenty of ambition about it.

Another option would be a sabbatical, which many F1 greats have successfully utilized in the past. Niki Lauda, Alain Prost and Kimi Raikkonen all took breaks from the sport before coming back still with the same spark as before. So what does Fernando think of this?

“I don’t think it would be damaging too much,” Alonso said. “The rules are exactly the same, and there were people going out and coming back without any big problems. The last example was Kimi, who came back and was very competitive straight away.

“But it’s unlikely,” he added.

It is important to consider what Fernando’s true ambition is. In reality, all he wants – and indeed, all that he has craved for almost eight years now – is a third world championship. It’s as simple as that.

For when he became the sport’s youngest ever double world champion in 2006, the world appeared to be at his feet. A big-money deal with McLaren had been long secured for 2007, and with them, he seemed to have a real shot at carving into many of Michael Schumacher’s records. Few would have expected him to be still stuck on two titles in 2014, particularly after five seasons with Ferrari.

He continues to say that what he is doing is not only best for him, but also best for Ferrari. It is difficult to read too much into this, given that the team looks to want rid of the Spaniard so it can usher in a new era with Vettel at the helm. Basically, leaving the team will be what is best for Ferrari – a subtle dig and parting shot from Alonso.

This ambitious plan is one that continues to leave the paddock perplexed. The only man who really knows where Fernando Alonso will be racing in 2015 is Fernando Alonso.

It could all be a very elaborate plot that does have us going “of course, we should have seen it!” when the announcement comes. For the time being though, we continue to speculate and ponder just what Alonso’s options are. Perhaps there really is more on offer than just McLaren?

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Eli Tomac, Ken Roczen’s two-man battle in Motocross provides surprises

Rich Shepherd, ProMotocross
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The 2019 Motocross season is one-third in the books and the title battle may have already come down to a two-man contest, while the pair of contenders might just be a little surprising in their own way.

Strictly by the numbers, no one can count Eli Tomac’s early season charge of first- and second-place finishes shocking, but threepeating in Motocross is such an incredibly difficult feat that no one would have been surprised to see him struggle out of the gates either. And in fact, that is precisely what happened.

Tomac came out of the gates slow in Round 1 and was seventh by the end of Lap 1 of Moto 1 – hardly the auspicious start he hoped for. He rebounded only as far as fourth and that ultimately cost him a chance to win the overall. Tomac won Moto 2 to claim second overall.

In Round 2, Tomac found his rhythm and won both Motos and grabbed the red plate. For the moment, he had the momentum with three consecutive Moto wins.

Tomac stumbled again in Round 3 – this time finishing only fifth in Moto 1 and earning only 16 points to dig a deep hole that eventually surrendered the red plate to Ken Roczen.

It was at Thunder Valley in Round 3 that a pattern emerged. Tomac would not make it easy on himself early in the day, but was more than capable of winning the second Motos to overcome his deficit.

That Roczen has won this season is also not a surprise in itself. Many believed his ascent to the top step of the podium was way overdue.

That he has run so well, however, was not entirely expected at the start of the season. Since injuring both arms in a pair of accidents, Roczen came tantalizingly close to snapping his winless streak a dozen times. He won heat races during the Supercross season and finished second at Anaheim I, Minneapolis, Dallas, and Seattle earlier this year.

He just couldn’t secure the overall win.

Roczen’s Moto 1 victory at Hangtown might have been the precursor to another disappointing weekend, but once Tomac got into the lead, Roczen zeroed in on the Kawasaki’s back tire and finished second in route to the overall victory.

Roczen lost the overall and the red plate to Tomac in Round 2 at Pala, but he stood on the podium in both Motos. Roczen podiumed twice again in Round 3 while taking that overall victory to regain the red plate in what has become a seesaw affair in the early part of the 2019 season.

Last week, Roczen looked more like Tomac with his desperate struggle in Moto 1 and sixth-place finish. That was the first (and so far only) time this season that he failed to stand on the podium.

Roczen’s Moto 2 win last week was just enough to put him second overall with barely enough points to force a tie at the top of the leaderboard with 176 points apiece.

Meanwhile, Tomac failed to win either Moto with a third in the first race and runner-up finish in the second.

The moral victory and advantage may shift to Roczen this week.

As they have swapped the victory in the first four rounds with Roczen winning the odd-numbered events, he sees this weekend’s Round 5 as an opportunity.

“I’m looking forward to next weekend’s race,” Roczen said in a team press release. “The track is sandy. It’s very similar—actually almost identical—to what I ride on a regular basis at home.”

Tomac and Roczen enter Round 5 with a 32-point advantage over two riders tied for third in the standings.

So far Zach Osborne and Jason Anderson have not been in the same league as the leaders, but it only takes one slip of the wheel to fall out of the points in in a race and allow these racers to close the gap.

Season passes can be purchased at NBC Sports Gold.

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