Canadian GP talking points – What should Fernando Alonso do in 2019?

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Our resident F1 writers — Nate Saunders, Maurice Hamilton, Kate Walker and Laurence Edmondson — respond to the main talking points from the Canadian Grand Prix.

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff described the weekend as a wake-up call for his team, do you think it signified a turning point the championship?

NS: No. The delayed Mercedes engine clearly made a big difference. Nothing has really changed for the world champions: Ferrari is going to be incredibly difficult to beat to the title in 2018. If it’s comprehensively beaten again in France with its new engine, that will be a decisive moment.

MH: Not sure about a turning point in the championship, but it’s certainly a confirmation — if we needed it — that Mercedes are not having it all their own way in 2018. There’s nothing in it and Mercedes’ tyre decision re the hypersoft numbers proved small details are likely to settle the championship. We’re only one third through the season and momentum could swing the other way in France.

KW: We’re a third of the way through the season and there’s one point in it with umpteen remaining to be claimed in future. Seb is currently in the lead, but we’ve got 14 more opportunities for the standings to change, which they will. Where Montreal is important is because it’s a power-hungry circuit and one that in any of the past four seasons would have been considered an automatic win for the Silver Arrows. Merc won’t have any easy wins or walkovers this season, is the takeaway from Canada.

LE: It was surprising that Mercedes was the only one of the four engine manufacturers not to deliver on its promised upgrade at the weekend. In previous years Brixworth set the benchmark in reliability and performance, but this season that has not been the case. If the upgraded engine comes to France and performs well then things won’t look quite so bad, but for the first time in a long time Mercedes is a team under serious pressure.

After finishing 27 seconds behind his teammate in Sunday’s race, Kimi Raikkonen is now 53 points off Sebastian Vettel after seven races. Would you agree with Martin Brundle that he’s reached “the end of the road” in F1?

NS: He’s been at the end of the road for a while now. I understand how he is a safe option for Ferrari and doesn’t ruffle any feathers, but there are plenty of other drivers more deserving of such a competitive race seat.

MH: He’s getting no younger and the legendary three-day parties of his past are probably having an effect on his sharpness. There’s been too many small but crucial mistakes in Q3. But the lack of pace on Sunday is unacceptable at this level. Ferrari will have to decide whether keeping Vettel happy with a compliant and slower team-mate takes priority over winning the championship in such a competitive season.

KW: If I were taking a leisurely stroll along a road lined with many millions of dollars, pounds, or euros which kept fluttering up into my pockets, I would make that walk last as long as I thought I could get away with. Who’s to blame Kimi for doing exactly that? He’s a family man now, has mouths to feed. Whatever hunger to race Kimi might have felt in this phase of his career was soundly extinguished somewhere around lap 33 of the 2017 Monaco Grand Prix, and who can blame him?

LE: Raikkonen did not have Ferrari’s new engine in Canada due to a failure in Spain that put his power unit usage out of sync with Vettel’s. It’s not clear how much of a difference that made in terms of performance, but it goes some of the way to explaining the gap between the two Ferraris over the weekend. Looking at his season to date, he was unlucky in Bahrain and Spain but even with those setbacks he has outscored Max Verstappen and outqualified Valtteri Bottas so far this year. Yes, he’s not as good as he once was but he’s nowhere near as bad as many people are making out.

After the debacle with the chequered flag, is it time for F1 to introduce a more high-tech and less error-prone signal for the end of the race?

NS: Absolutely. It’s incredible in a sport as technical as F1 that a simple miscommunication between two people could lead to such a big mistake. Given the fact Charlie Whiting also admitted some people responsible have trouble understanding the lap counter — and which lap really is the last lap — this is surely one where the human element should be gone completely.

MH: Absolutely not. Let’s not lose the chequered flag, one of the few remaining iconic symbols in F1. The timing system works perfectly well; it’s up to the official on the rostrum to be able to read the screen correctly. This wasn’t the fault of Winnie Harlow. ‘Celebrities’ have their place. But not posing on the rostrum or playing any part in the running of the race.

KW: No. One of the big problems with motorsport is its perfection. Perfection is a worthy pursuit, but it’s dull. Now that we don’t have finger trouble leading to race-leading cars dropping out in the final laps (it’s exceedingly rare, even if it does happen on occasion), we need the odd bit of human error to spice things up. After the race I overheard Winnie Harlow talking about the flag mistake — she was mortified, and only waved the flag when she was told to do so. I want to know who issued the wrong instruction.

LE: The flag itself isn’t the issue and in this case it was the communication between race officials that led to the mistake. At other grands prix, race control counts down the laps over the radio so that all marshals and the flag waver can be in no doubt as to when the chequered should come out. This needs to become standard at all races along with a computerised backup to clearly display a lap countdown should the radio fail.

After more disappointment for Fernando Alonso at his 300th F1 race, do you think he should switch to IndyCar next year?

NS: His career might be littered with terrible decisions, but leaving McLaren’s F1 operation next year would not be one of them. There is no way McLaren wins a title before the next regulation change — even podiums seem like a fantasy at the moment. Alonso has a considerable influence at McLaren: he should be arguing for a switch to IndyCar with the option to return when (if) the orange car is ever back to winning ways.

MH: I think his mind is already made up. What’s the point in staying? Alonso wants to win races – no more, no less – and it’s not going to happen in F1 because a) the McLaren is seriously uncompetitive, and b) circumstances, and Fernando’s disruptive record, have ruled him out of a top drive elsewhere. What a waste of such a massive talent.

KW: Fernando’s time in F1 is definitely coming to an end. He’s achieved two titles and is unlikely to ever get any more. He’s a talented driver and an intelligent man who knows that he’s not going to be setting or breaking the F1 records he’d hoped to, so it makes sense to look elsewhere for motivation. The Triple Crown is a challenge, but a realistic one, and it’s his best shot at cementing his status as a racing legend. If he can pull it off, and become the first person in the 21st century to achieve the feat, Alonso’s name will be linked with that, and not with Spygate or Crashgate. Which legacy would you choose?

LE: If he wins the Le Mans 24 Hours this weekend then I reckon he’ll sign an IndyCar deal with McLaren in the following months. A Le Mans victory would leave just the Indy 500 on his Triple Crown to-do list and a dedicated season in IndyCar would be the best way to achieve that. But if he doesn’t win Le Mans this weekend, he may stay in F1 as the WEC calendar doesn’t really dovetail with IndyCar, and arguably Le Mans outside a dominant Toyota will be a tougher nut to crack than the Indy 500. Make no mistake though, a third world title would supersede any Triple Crown ambitions and if he so much as gets a sniff at one then you can forget Indy and Le Mans altogether.



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