Earlier this season, Fernando Alonso caused a stir in the paddock. No, he wasn’t cryptically pointing out to his team that his car had about as much power as a golf buggy going up a hill. Instead, he announced that he would miss the Monaco Grand Prix, the most prestigious Grand Prix on the calendar, to compete at the Indianapolis 500.
The shock reverberated through the paddock. Why would Alonso want to miss the most glamorous Grand Prix on the calendar? Well, apart from having more chance of being last in the event as opposed to first, Alonso wanted to attempt to get the second race win on route to the triple crown of motorsport.
Well, apart from having more chance of being last in the event as opposed to first, Alonso wanted to attempt to get the second race win on route to the triple crown of motorsport.
In one fell swoop, Alonso brought the idea of the triple crown back into the conscious of the F1 paddock.
Not sure what the triple crown is? Don’t understand why it is so important? Don’t worry, this article has you covered.
WHAT IS THE TRIPLE CROWN OF MOTORSPORT?
The triple crown has seen a few revisions over the years, but traditionally it is winning the three most prestigious races in motorsport: the Indy 500, Monaco Grand Prix and Le Mans 24 hours.
There is another variation that replaces Monaco with the overall F1 world Championship, but for us, the three races constitute the true triple crown, mainly because you can win the F1 world championship without winning at Monaco.
WHY IS IT SO PRESTIGIOUS?
There are two main reasons why the triple crown is so prestigious.
First, individually, each race is tough to win. To win the Indy 500, you have to complete 500 miles on an oval circuit with average speeds of 155mph. To win Le Mans, three drivers have to do as many laps as possible in 24 hours, at the extremely quick Circuit de la Sarthe, equating to eight hours in the car each, across 24 hours. The Monaco Grand Prix is raced on the most challenging and tightest street circuit in Formula One, a true test of precision driving where the car has little importance compared to the driver.
Second, only one man has ever completed the motorsport triple crown. In 1972 Graham Hill won the Le Mans 24 hour race, adding to his Monaco wins in 1963, ’64, ’65, ’68 & ’69, and his Indy 500 win in 1966.
The mere fact that only one man has completed the triple crown demonstrates how hard, and therefore how sort after, it is. To add to that, only 12 men have won two of the three legs needed to complete the achievement, with only one still actively racing.
If it were easy to complete, the triple crown would not be held in such reverence.
DOES ANYONE HAVE A CHANCE OF COMPLETING IT?
There is a reason no driver has completed the triple crown since 1972: it is very hard. Monaco and Indy fall on the same weekend so a driver from either series can not compete in both races; teams from different motorsport categories refuse to allow a driver to drive elsewhere during the season; and, simply, it is tough to be competitive in all three categories. To win any motorsport race you need ability and luck, almost in equal measure, and with these races, both are needed that much more.
All that said, we came up with two drivers who could, could, have a chance. Juan Pablo Montoya is the most obvious choice. Already having won Monaco and Indy (arguably the two hardest to simply get a race seat in), he only has to win Le Mans to complete the triple crown. However, Montoya does not seem particularly bothered about the idea, stating in recent interviews that while he would like to compete at Le Mans, he is not really bothered all that much about the triple crown.
The second driver is the man who brought all this back to the front of the motor racing world’s consciousness: Fernando Alonso. Having a working relationship with and Indy team means the door is still open to Fernando to try his luck at the 500 again. If he were to win, that would leave just Le Mans, and with former F1 drivers competing in Le Mans regularly–Anthony Davidson and Mark Webber, for example–there is every chance that a driver of Fernando’s pedigree would have a shot at winning it.
WHY IS IT SO HARD?
It is possible, but very difficult to win all the races. The easiest route to the triple crown is to first win Monaco, then Indy before finishing with Le Mans. That is because to get into a Formula One car is far more difficult these days. Generally speaking, you have to have come through the junior Formulas to get a seat. In the old days, you could win Le Mans or Indy first and still have a shot at F1, but those avenues are very small.
Even when drivers make it to Formula One, the ones successful enough to win races would be reluctant to leave at the peak of their career to go to Indy cars. F1 is most well-payed and prestigious form of motor racing and the incentives to leave somewhere that is so difficult to enter is very low. Alonso got away with it because of his, Honda’s and McLaren’s very unique situation.
With Alonso bringing up his desire to win the triple crown, it is possible that it could be won again and if it were, it would be a monumental achievement.