Hamilton's Interactions with Takuma Sato on the Suzuka Podium Have Reignited the F1 to Indy Fervor
"Can I try this ring? Can I see if it's worth me going and doing it one day?"
Hamilton tries on Takuma Sato's 2017 Indianapolis 500 Champion ring. Photo Credit: NBC Sports.
It was a move that was no doubt prompted more out of jewelry envy than it was out of a desire to run the Indianapolis 500. But it happened. Lewis Hamilton slipped on the ring given to Indianapolis 500 champions and in so doing, he set the oval racing world on fire.
Now, it should be stated up front that there is no way on God's green earth that Hamilton, or perhaps even Alonso, will run the 500 next year. Title contenders have not abandoned their chance to win the Monaco Grand Prix in years (looking at you, Mario). The thought of missing the chance to win in the street of Monte Carlo is more than enough to keep drivers in such midfield teams as Haas or Renault firmly planted on the European continent during the Month of May. It's Monaco, after all, the crown jewel of the F1 calendar, and to miss it would be like missing a birthday. The only reason Alonso cut tail and ran across the pond in 2017 was because he knew he had about as much chance of winning as a gazelle did.
But the results of Alonso's brief jaunt into Indycar cannot be undervalued. There was massive international interest in the 500 mile race, the kind of which hasn't enjoyed by American Open Wheel Racing since the pre-split days. And as some one who hasn't missed a race in a decade and a half, I can tell you that there was a buzz at the Brickyard that I have never felt before. All because of a single Formula One driver.
On the flip side, many of the IndyCar faithful I call friends, have been blowing up my phone in the wee hours of Sunday mornings, asking me this or that about their newly discovered love of Formula One. The reason they started watching? A certain bearded Spaniard who came over and raced in a McLaren for the Month of May.
But, in 2018, it is looking like neither Alonso nor any other of his F1 drivers will run at Indianapolis. The reason? They don't want to miss Monaco.
And here we come to the impasse that has plagued the sport for years. Monaco and Indianapolis, two of (if not the two) most important races of the year are run on the same day.
My simple question is why?
Why do we continue to have these two great events, these two events that between them have nearly two hundred years of shared history, run on the same day. Why can't one of them be moved to allow for Formula One drivers to come over and compete against the best that America (and those that choose to race here) has to offer?
In the case of Indianapolis, the answer is rather simple. The Month of May is not just a saying, it is a tradition. Anyone who has ever spent time in the Hoosier state will tell you that the Month of May is the 25 days of Christmas to those of us choose who worship at the temple of speed. Ask any race fan from Indiana, or all over the Midwest for that matter, what their favorite month is, and I guarantee you their answer will be May. It's an entire month centered around racing.
Moving the Indianapolis 500 would seem almost sacrilegious as the race is as synonymous with May as Santa Claus is to Christmas. Furthermore, the 500 always falls on Memorial Day Weekend, a national holiday in the US that commemorates those soldier and sailors that have died in the defense of the country. Much of the fanfare and tradition surrounding the 500 is directed at observing Memorial Day, from the troop parade around the track to the never announced, yet hush inducing playing of Taps.
So, if Indianapolis has traditions and practices rooted around the date it has always occupied in the calendar, moving it would seem unlikely. In fact, I'm fairly certain that even suggesting changing the date of the 500 while on Indiana soil is legally punishable by immediate exile to Kentucky.
So why not move Monaco?
Full disclosure, I'm incredibly biased. I was born in Indiana. I grew up in Indiana. And I was able to recite the names of the four time 500 champions before I could spell (in case you were wondering, they are AJ Foyt, Al Unser Sr, and Rick Mears).
But despite my bias, I don't think it would be out of the realm of possibility for the new owners of F1 to consider moving the date of Monaco back one week. Just one week, to allow for as many drivers as want to, to come over and participate in the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.
Think about it. The Grand Prix of Spain traditionally takes places in mid May, two weeks before Monaco. If Monaco were to be pushed back a week, as Alonso proved possible this year, drivers could finish in Spain, hop on the next jet and be present for Rookie Orientation on Monday morning in Indianapolis.
While it may be playing with the tradition of Monaco, think of the possibilities for promotion Liberty could gain by changing dates around. Foreign sounding names to American fans could quickly become as household ones, just as Alonso's did this year. The US market, something F1 has long courted and long failed to win over, might just be more willing to get up in the middle of the night to watch a race if they were more familiar with the names and faces of those racing.
And that's just from a ratings perspective. Think of the bragging rights. If F1 was able to send over the four or five best drivers and they squashed the field of 33, well then they would be able to prove once and for all that they were the pinnacle of motorsports and the breeding grounds for the best drivers in the world. On the flip side, if Scott Dixon, Will Power, or new champion Josef Newgarden were able to pip the likes of Hamilton, Vettel, or Ricciardo to the Borg Warner, think of the bragging IndyCar would be able to do.
Is it a crazy idea to push Monaco back a week? Yes, it is. I fully acknowledge it. And I fully acknowledge that it would be flying in the face of tradition. But at the same time the prospect of seeing the best drivers in the world all competing at one of oldest and most historic tracks in the world... That's enough to make we want to break any tradition there is.