Aug. 27, 2020

Hickey: Petty Petty Petty (re-post)

I might be remembering the Forrest Gump saying incorrectly; was the saying, petty is as petty does? I probably got that wrong...

Petty is the only word that comes to mind when I think of the Honda-Alonso announcement that just made its way around the IndyCar news cycle last week.
Adam Stern had reported that Andretti Autosport (Honda) was set to announce a deal with Fernando Alonso to run the Indianapolis 500 for the team, plus the potential for select other races on the IndyCar schedule.

However, according to RACER and Chris Medland/Marshall Pruett, Honda Performance Development had to get the final clearance from heads of Honda in Tokyo. The deal was vetoed, leaving Alonso with a very limited amount of Chevrolet based options to enter his third Indianapolis 500.

At what point do both sides bury that hatchet and just say, "We were both wrong, let's move forward"? 

Fernando Alonso rejoined McLaren ahead of the 2015 Formula 1 season. This ushered in a new era for McLaren, as that same season, the team switched from Mercedes engines to Honda engines. For three years, McLaren patiently worked with Honda to develop the engines, but it was clearly not progressing at the rate that McLaren was hoping for. Before the 2017 F1 finale, McLaren officially announced they were switching to Renault for their future engines. 

Honda did help Alonso enter his first Indianapolis 500 in 2017 with Andretti Autosport/McLaren. Alonso was showing pace all May and did a fantastic job of staying clean and fast before retiring with, of all things, an engine failure. That pretty much summarized McLaren and Honda's relationship since 2015.

Honda would not supply the engines for McLaren and Alonso's failed effort to make the 2019 Indianapolis 500 field.


Alonso in a Chevrolet-powered McLaren during last year's Indianapolis 500 practice (Photo: Chris Owens / IndyCar Media)

Going back through the years, we can see some contentious quotes that may have led Honda to not want to be associated with McLaren/Alonso going forward. Every pre-season, both sides were full of hope. However, once the car hit the track, everything began to unravel. Zak Brown of McLaren would continue to say how they only want Honda in their cars and that this sort of effort takes time. 

Alonso made a crack at Honda during, of all races, the Japanese Grand Prix (2015), saying his car feels like a GP2 car and saying that it is embarrassing (GP2 was the feeder series into Formula 1, now known today as F2).

So basically what we have here is a lot of frustration over three years of futility in Formula 1 boiling over into petty jabs years later. Honda not allowing Alonso to enter the Indy 500 with their engines is the icing on the cake. 

Can both sides admit that they are wrong and move forward? Alonso shouldn't be comparing Honda engines to a GP2 engine at their home race, but can you really blame him for being that frustrated? Alonso, one of the most talented and decorated drivers in the history of Formula 1, spent three years as a backmarker trying to help Honda develop into something special.

Take a good look at it - a Honda car with Alonso's name won't be happening again anytime soon (Photo: Chris Owens / IndyCar Media)

And for Honda, they could maybe take a step back and say, "Yeah, we really sucked for three years." Honda has since turned a corner with Red Bull Racing, winning three races in 2019 with the Austrian outfit. So what do they care? Whether they like to admit it or not, everything McLaren did with Honda, whether successful or disastrous, helped Honda get back to their winning ways.

Sure it didn't end up as either party had imagined, but a little self-reflection could go a long way in helping both sides move forward. Fernando Alonso is an immense talent who is just trying to accomplish his goal of winning the Triple Crown. Honda apparently wants no part in that, and to me, it's damn shame. IndyCar has been caught in the cross-fire in 2020 for incidents that happened years ago. 


Opinions in this article reflect solely on the author. 

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