If there was ever any doubt about Fernando Alonso’s mega-star status in motorsport, they were put to rest last week, courtesy of the Fuji Speedway in Japan and the organisers of the World Endurance Championship.
A glance at the Formula 1 and WEC calendars after the announcement of Alonso’s involvement with Toyota revealed one date clash between the two series, with the US Grand Prix Austin taking place on the same weekend as the 6 Hours of Fuji.
Unsurprisingly, Fuji, which is owned by Toyota, requested a date change which the headmen of the WEC were more than happy to grant, fully aware of the massive PR buzz Alonso’s presence in Japan would generate for all parties involved.
Unfortunately, the rescheduling now deals a bitter blow to IMSA’s Petit Le Mans round at Road Atlanta, whose October 14th date now conflicts with the Fuji event.
The end result? Alonso will take part in all WEC races with Toyota this season, leaving aggrieved full-time WEC drivers contracted to race in the Petit Le Mans and hundreds of team personnel to deal with the logistic and legal consequences.
Clearly, one driver’s interest should not prevail at the expense of others who put the same amount of effort and dedication into their work as the privileged megastar.
Even Jenson Button was roiled by the prerogative awarded by the WEC to Fuji, Toyota and his former McLaren team mate.
“It’s a shame that a race is changed for one driver,” Button said on Twitter.
“The change hurts so many other drivers who have contracts in place,” he pointed out. “Also other categories like IMSA and Super GT where a clash will hurt their fan base.”
Looking to the future, one hopes Alonso will make good use of the precious right he has just been granted, by winning the WECs super-season which ends with the 2019 edition of the Le Mans 21 Hours.
And while he’s at it, why not wrap up another Formula 1 title next year, after a 2018 season which could see McLaren and himself return to the winner’s circle.
Fernando Alonso, Formula 1 and WEC world champion in 2019. The stuff of mega-stars!
Phillip van Osten
Editor of F1i.com