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Earlier Start to F1 Season Creates Potential Alonso Clash

Earlier start to 2019 F1 season moves Australian GP onto Sebring WEC weekend, subject to approval…

Photo: MPS Agency

The Sebring round of the FIA World Endurance Championship is set to clash with the opening race of the 2019 Formula 1 season, in a move that could set up a scheduling conflict for Le Mans winner Fernando Alonso.

The two-time F1 world champion, who currently drives for McLaren, is also slated to contest the full WEC campaign with Toyota Gazoo Racing in LMP1, but would be cup-tied if the new provisional date for the Australian Grand Prix is ratified by the World Motor Sport Council.

F1 is set to begin its season a week earlier than usual on the weekend of March 16-17, while the Sebring 1,000-mile race is confirmed to take place on Friday, March 15.

The adjustment of the Melbourne race date is believed to have been caused by a wish for its organizers to separate the GP from the opening weekend of the Australian Rules Football season.

Alonso has yet to confirm his 2019 plans, with the two-time F1 world champion expected to reveal his long-term career direction after the summer break.

It’s believed the Spaniard could make a switch to IndyCar, potentially in a new program headed up by McLaren.

However, if Alonso is confirmed in F1 next year, it would mark the second time the Toyota driver has faced a clash between his two world championship programs.

In February, Alonso was thrust to the center of a scheduling debacle after the Fuji WEC round was brought forward to avoid a clash with the United States GP

In May, he expressed confidence that there would be no further clashes between the 2018-19 WEC ‘Super Season’ and next year’s F1 calendar.

When asked if he had concerns about the Australian GP sharing a weekend with Sebring, Alonso said, “I think that’s more or less safe.”

“I think Sebring is soon enough that Formula 1 will not have started in that period of the year,” he said.

“In Spa [WEC] next year [on May 4] we’ll see. Obviously it’s Baku and Barcelona and these kind of races. Hopefully not.”

Meanwhile, McLaren CEO Zak Brown suggested at last month’s 24 Hours of Le Mans that there would be no clash, based on “the tentative schedules I’ve seen.”

The full 2019 F1 calendar is expected to be announced in the coming weeks, prior to its validation by the WMSC in October.

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365 and e-racing365, with a focus on the FIA World Endurance Championship and various electric racing series.

15 Comments

15 Comments

  1. Harry Manback

    July 2, 2018 at 11:59 am

    ….except for when Alonso is no longer driving in F1 because of his McLaren INDYCAR contract, which I think has just been confirmed.

  2. Anonymous

    July 2, 2018 at 12:47 pm

    Unless McLaren can turn their car from the 7th best car on the grid to the 4th best car by the time they return to Spa-Francochamps after the summer break, Alonso, I suspect, is on his way out!

  3. Rick J

    July 2, 2018 at 12:48 pm

    Not only will Alonso not be in F1 next year, Toyota will be gone after Fuji so really none of this matters

    • Sorc

      July 2, 2018 at 1:02 pm

      I wonder why people come up with this nonsense.

    • DanO

      July 2, 2018 at 3:11 pm

      Nonceworthy comment.

    • RUs'L

      July 2, 2018 at 9:00 pm

      You do know that Toyota has a contractual obligation to finish out the entire Super Season…

  4. TMZ

    July 2, 2018 at 1:21 pm

    How is this news worthy? Literally just an Alonso clickbait story

    • Rus'L

      July 2, 2018 at 9:03 pm

      And yet we all fell for it. LOL

  5. Dave

    July 2, 2018 at 4:12 pm

    While IMSA and the WEC have secured some big names, sportscar racing is less about drivers and more about team. I know Fernando does not create or want the controversy, but this is what happens when you make the race about the driver and not the team. Another brilliant decision by the WEC to be led around by the nose to accommodate the F1 calendar and blow up the calendar of the dedicated OTHER drivers in your championship who now wont earn a check for PLM.

  6. John

    July 2, 2018 at 7:06 pm

    To be able to choose from three major racing series is pretty unique in this day and age.

    And all the more surprising given the mistakes he’s made in his career path in the past.

    IF he really wants to leave a mark on history, he’d attempt a “Florida Double;” Sebring and then St. Pete. The Florida Ironman challenge.

    • Rus'L

      July 2, 2018 at 9:03 pm

      Isn’t St. Pete before Sebring?

      Remember the old Florida “triple crown” back in IMSA’s heyday — Daytona, Sebring, Miami.

      • John

        July 2, 2018 at 9:20 pm

        St. Pete has been the 3rd weekend in March for the last couple years. Prior to that it has also taken place later in the month.

        If IndyCar sticks to the middle of the month, it would race on the 17th, two days after Sebring.

        Imagine a scenario with the WEC (15th), IMSA (16th), and then IndyCar (17th). That would be pretty wild for a fan, never mind a driver.

        • Rus'L

          July 3, 2018 at 9:09 am

          I looked it up. This year, St. Pete was March 9-11. Sebring was March 15-17.

          Ergo, St. Pete was the weekend before Sebring.

          And Indy car won’t be stupid enough to schedule St. Pete on the exact same weekend as Sebring.

          • John

            July 3, 2018 at 8:07 pm

            You’re right. It’s been after Sebring the last three years, and on the 11th this year. Which is kinda lame, since the next race wasn’t until weeks later, but that’s another topic…

            Prior to that, it took place after, going all the way back to IndyCar’s reunification a decade ago.

            And aside from the business implications, it would be unfeasible to hold three series on the same weekend, esp. when the addition of the WEC will tax the volunteers who probably provide track support for both series.

            Regardless, there are some interesting questions to be answered, with a lot of moving parts that will determine where Fred ends up. If it were me, I would have started a rebuild of McLaren already, but that’s another topic again…

        • Lanky Turtle

          July 3, 2018 at 3:32 pm

          St. Pete is never the same weekend as Sebring. It’s been the week before the last few years and was a week or two after Sebring in the years before that. And several drivers already do the Florida Triple like Bourdais, Dixon, Rahal, Hunter Reay and Pagenaud.

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