Now I'm not saying Lewis Hamilton winning his fourth title was not impressive because it was. However it was also very much expected. Looking back at it Mercedes really had everyone else covered with a few exceptions sprinkled in throughout the season here and there. Most notably Ferrari stepping up their game, but all in all it was another very strong year for Mercedes and Lewis resulting in Mercedes 4th consecutive Constructors Title and Lewis claiming his 4th Drivers Title, 3rd with Mercedes.
No, my racing moment of 2017 has to go to Fernando Alonso running at the 101st running of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing, the Indianapolis 500. Excited fans from around the world followed Fernando from the his announcement in April that he would run at Indy, to his rookie orientation, to qualifying and then the race.
I was lucky enough to attend Pole Day Qualifying on May 21st 2017. Now I have attended darn near every Pole Day since 1982 and this was the first year since 1995 or so that Pole Day at Indy felt electric again. Attendance was most certainly up, and the track felt alive for the first time in a very long time. So when I took my seat on the outside of turn 1 near the pit exit I have to admit that I had some flashbacks to that 12 year old boy that used to look forward to Pole Day weekend all year long.
After positions 10-33 were filled it was finally time for the fast 9 to take to the track. Some impressive numbers were being put up too. A 232 mph average qualifying speed hadn't been seen at Indy in almost 20 years. So to see the top drivers practice speeds very close to that mark was extremely exciting.
Fast forward to Fernando's very first Indy 500 Pole Day qualifying attempt. Now let's remember that this man didn't step into an IndyCar until 17 days prior. Also, I think that it's worthy to note that 4 time IndyCar Champion Sebastian Bourdais just had a major crash in turn 2 just 24 hours earlier. A crash that would leave him sidelined for 3 months. I think that has to weigh somewhat on every driver's mind. So out drives Fernando, and the crowd was in high anticipation of what the Spaniard could do. He did his two warm-up laps and here he comes screaming towards me at 230+ mph for his first qualifying lap. The crowd was behind him to say the least. At the end of his first lap...231.113, are you kidding me? The crowd loved it! His second lap...231.440, awesome! Lap three....231.475! His fourth lap came in at 231.171 bringing his average to 231.300. Amazing, absolutely amazing! You could almost hear a collective WOW as he crossed the line for each of his laps. This is what qualifying at Indy is supposed to be all about, the unknown and excitement. Fernando provided plenty of excitement that day for sure.
Fernando would end up as the 5th fastest qualifier for the 101st Indianapolis 500. No small feat by any means. He out-qualified multi time champions and multi time Indy 500 winners all with much more experience in these machines than what Fernando had.
Race Day rolls around and Fernando leads 27 laps but unfortunately has car trouble (darn it Honda!) with 21 laps to go finishing in 24th. Still the crowd was there for him, cheering him every time he led a lap and even when he stepped out of a wounded car on lap 179 he received a standing ovation. It wasn't meant to be this time, but what a ride it was.
I can only hope that he comes back someday to compete again at Indy so we can all feel that electricity in the air one more time. Thank you Fernando for bringing a spark to what is an already fantastic event that is the Indy 500.