In 2017, McLaren’s F1 prospects were so poor that Alonso was able to skip the Monaco Grand Prix with the team’s blessing in order to take part in the Indy 500 with a McLaren-backed Andretti Autosport entry. He starred and was in contention for the win until his Honda engine blew.
Having taken two years’ sabbatical from F1, Alonso has found it easier to prepare for Indy last year and this, but in 2021 he will relight his F1 career at Renault.
There had been much speculation that with the Monaco Grand Prix and the Indy 500 not running on the same weekend next season (May 23rd and May 30th respectively) that he might be able to do both, despite Indy qualifying being held on Monaco weekend. Indianapolis Motor Speedway rules are that the car rather than the driver qualifies, so theoretically another driver could qualify a car for Alonso, and he would take it over for the race, albeit starting from the back of the 33-car field.
Alonso ended that idea when asked how he has mentally prepared for the race and if he regarded next week’s 104th running of the Indy 500 as “the last chance for a little while to try to win”.
“It's a good question,” he replied. “I think I approach the race, as you said, knowing the next two years is going to be impossible to come. I will have to miss qualifying weekend if I wanted to do so.
“I will not be any more with McLaren next year in F1 [so] that will not work either. I know at least for two years I will not be here.
“Look, this is the way it is at the moment. I'm here ready to enjoy the event, ready to give my best, and help the team as much as I can. Let's see in the future what are the possibilities. If you eventually win one day the race, maybe that opens the possibility for different things.”
On the subject of how his racing diary looks for the remainder of this season, Alonso said: “When I stopped F1 in 2018, then 2019 it was too much, it was too active. I was racing from January, the 24 Hours of Daytona, then Sebring, then was testing, then Spa, 24 Hours of Le Mans, Indy, the preparation of the car. I had the full attack season.
“This 2020 I wanted to relax a little bit. Doing the Dakar in January, then full focus on the Indy 500. The second part of the season just relax, charge the batteries. In 2021, I’m going back to F1, I knew it could be very demanding.
“[When] the virus arrived, then we had a quieter season – more than we wanted, everybody. But in my case I just planned to do the Indy 500. This is what I'm doing. From Monday, [Aug.] 24th, it’s going to be again a quiet season preparing myself physically, mentally. A couple of simulator days with Renault, maybe attending two or three Grands Prix just to see how they work on track. But, yeah, quite easy second part of the year.”