Just as Formula 1’s driver market ‘silly season’ appeared to be running out of steam, a fresh twist has emerged ahead of this weekend’s Belgian Grand Prix following a report that a move to Williams has emerged as a possible option for two-time world champion Fernando Alonso next season.
Alonso is out of contract at the end of 2018, and has long made his desire to be in a winning car next season clear after three difficult years with McLaren, hamstrung by Honda’s underperforming power unit.
Alonso entered this season appearing to hold the keys to the driver market for next year, but his options have narrowed dramatically in the months that have followed.
With Renault still running in F1’s midfield and rebuilding after returning to the sport with a works team in 2016, a third stint with the French marque does not yet appear attractive enough to Alonso.
This appeared to leave the Spaniard two options for 2018: stick with McLaren, regardless of whether or not it continues with Honda; or take time out of F1, something he does not want to do given his affinity for the new-spec cars.
The idea of Alonso joining Williams for 2018 was put to deputy team boss Claire Williams by NBCSN’s Will Buxton over the British Grand Prix weekend in July.
“I would be very flattered if Fernando Alonso came and knocked on our door, of course,” Williams said.
“He’s one of the best drivers in Formula 1 history, that the sport has ever seen. He’s a phenomenal talent.
“What a great coup for any team to get Fernando. But as I said, we’ve got to focus on this year and maybe worry about drivers later in the year.”
Williams did however add: “He would be a proper Williams driver. He’d probably look good in Williams Martini overalls as well, right? We’ll see…”
Williams currently fields Felipe Massa and Lance Stroll in its race seats, the latter arriving in F1 this year off the back of a convincing Formula 3 title win and with significant financial backing from his father, Lawrence.
Massa had initially planned to retire from F1 at the end of last year, only for Nico Rosberg’s shock decision to quit the sport after his world championship win to free up a seat at Williams again when Valtteri Bottas moved up to Mercedes.
Were Alonso to join Williams, he would find himself racing with the strongest power unit on the grid courtesy of Mercedes, resolving his chief complaint from his time with McLaren.
Alonso has long said he would wait until September before making a decision about his F1 future, even joking at Spa earlier this week that he has “one more week of freedom” before he would start thinking about it.
Schmidt notes in his report that Alonso would only be looking for a one-year deal, regardless of where he moves to, with the driver market for 2019 set to be particularly fluid as more seats at the front of the field become available.
After his Anaheim 2 crash, Eli Tomac was surprised he was not injured, but despite getting knocked down momentarily, he picked himself up, rode to last week’s win and reascended to the top of the SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Houston. This is the third time in three weeks Tomac has topped the rankings.
Last week, Tomac finished second in his heat before winning the Main – and that translated to near-perfect points in the Power Rankings, which award 100 for a win in the feature and 90 for a heat victory. Tomac’s average was marred by the Houston accident when he finished 13th in that heat before settling just outside the top five in overall standings. Racing is about bouncing back and last year’s Supercross and Motocross champion Tomac did just that as he chases a third consecutive title.
Jason Anderson earned his second consecutive podium finish with a third at Houston. He momentarily rolled past Aaron Plessinger into second during a restart following an accident involving Dylan Ferrandis and held that position for four trips around the track until he was tracked down by Chase Sexton. Afterward Anderson faded and finished 12 seconds off the pace, but along with a heat win, he easily leapfrogged Ken Roczen and Cooper Webb, who struggled in the fourth race of the season.
Webb held his position by passing Roczen in NBC’s SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Houston. Webb has been solid in 2023 with a worst moto result of seventh in the first Triple Crown race at Anaheim 2, but in order to be considered a solid challenger to Tomac he needs to win either a heat or main this week in Tampa.
Roczen was involved in the incident that sidelined Ferrandis in Houston. Racing for eighth at the time, his bike may have sustained some damage when Ferrandis landed on his back tire, but he was not overly impressive in his heat either with a fifth-place finish. That was enough to drop him three positions in the standings, but he still has Tomac in sight.
After his disappointing heat in San Diego when he crashed and sustained enough damage to place him last, Sexton has roared back. He won the overall in Anaheim 2’s Triple Crown format and narrowed the points’ gap slightly on Tomac. Last week he yarded the field in his heat race and won by a wide margin. A modest start in the Main kept him from getting to Tomac’s back wheel early in the Houston round, and he lost a little ground in the championship.
The 250 East division debuted in Houston and with only one race – and therefore no chance yet to stumble – three of their riders jumped to the top of the chart.
Hunter Lawrence had a perfect week with wins in both his main and heat. It wasn’t without drama, however, as he was forced to jump wide early in the feature to avoid contact with Tom Vialle, who was making his Supercross debut. Without a former 250 champion in the field, it is guaranteed someone new will grace the top of the box at Salt Lake City after the season-ender and it looks like it’s going to be Lawrence’s to lose.
It was more than four years ago that Jordon Smith scored his last Supercross podium in Detroit. Despite finishing second that afternoon, he was battling a wrist injury that eventually sidelined him. More injuries have followed, but Smith was a favorite to win the title in 2019 and he’s shown how well he can ride when he’s healthy.
Debuting third in the Houston SuperMotocross Power Rankings, Max Anstie moved from the 450 class last year to 250s in 2023 and the change has gone better than he anticipated. Finishing second in both his heat and main, Anstie was edged by Smith because he finished second behind that rider in their heat. That is Anstie’s first top-10 since finishing sixth at Southwick, Massachusetts last year on his 450. In that race, he scored fifth-place results in both motos.
Haiden Deegan proved the hype surrounding his graduation into the 250 class was well deserved and he landed fourth in his division and fifth overall in the SuperMotocross Power Rankings. In his first professional Supercross race, he finished fourth in his heat. In a field with twice the talent, he finished fourth again in the main. At Houston, he balanced aggression with patience. Now that he has a taste of that success, everyone will be watching him closely at Tampa to see if he can continue tiptoeing on the line.
Michael Mosiman, Jeremy Martin, and Vialle are tied for fifth in the 250 East division and seventh overall.
Vialle is the most notable of these three because he challenged for a podium position during the Main before making a mistake and falling in a turn. Significantly, this was not only his 250 debut, but his first time in Supercross. As with Deegan, he has generated a lot of attention for the coming weeks.
Hunter Lawrence – E
[1 Main; 1 Heat Win]
Jordon Smith – E
[1 Heat Win]
Max Anstie – E
Jett Lawrence – W
[2 Main; 2 Heat Wins]
Haiden Deegan – E
Cameron McAdoo – W
[1 Heat Win]
Mitchell Oldenburg – W
Michael Mosiman – E
Jeremy Martin – E
Tom Vialle – E
Stilez Robertson – W
[1 Heat Win]
Chance Hymas – E
Levi Kitchen – W
[1 Main Win]
RJ Hampshire – W
[3 Heat Wins]
Max Vohland – W
Cullin Park – E
Chris Blose – E
Derek Kelley – W
Enzo Lopes – W
Pierce Brown – W
* The NBC Power Rankings assign 100 points to a Main event winner and 90 points for each Heat and Triple Crown win, (Triple Crown wins are included with heat wins below the rider’s name). The points decrement by a percentage equal to the number of riders in the field until the last place rider in each event receives five points. The Power Ranking is the average of these percentage points over the past 45 days.