In this update during this lull in the Indycar schedule, we attempt to warn all of you of the impending coup that Chevy is attempting to pull off. Their Targets: Alexander Rossi, Colton Herta and Andretti Autosport.
We’ll also lay out the logic behind our guess on who “god” is, or at least where “god” lives.
First, the news update: There is no real news. But there were some tea leaves to read.
- After his dominating victory at Road America, Rossi and Andretti refused to comment publicly on Rossi’s contract for next year or Andretti’s engine manufacturer for next year.
- Rossi did say that discussions were at a sensitive stage, and that his fate for next year was “in god’s hands.” He also said Roger Penske, despite rumors to the contrary, was not god.
- Michael Andretti was wearing Kimoa sunglasses all weekend.
Let’s look at a couple of things there:
What could be “sensitive”? Rossi has said he wants a longer term guaranteed commitment from his next employer. If that is Andretti, that would mean Michael lining up a matching commitment from NAPA , GESS , DHL or a combination of sources to support his commitment to Rossi. I think that may be part of it, but why would that involve “god”? It wouldn’t.
How about the sunglasses? Michael Andretti and McLaren’s Zack Brown are long-time friends. Fernando Alonso started the sunglasses company. Andretti, Alonso and Brown had planned for Andretti to support McLaren’s effort to run full-time in Indycar for 2019, with a second car at the Indy 500 for Alonso. Scott Dixon would have driven the McLaren car for the full season. This was to the point where there were said to be press releases written. Until Honda put a stop to that, saying it would not support McLaren in Indycar. Alonso, yes. McLaren, no. That decision supposedly came from Tokyo, not American Honda which had supposedly okayed the deal.
My intuition and my knowledge of Michael Andretti tells me the same thing is going on again. The goal is for Fernando Alonso to run the Indy 500 in a McLaren supported by Andretti.
Like the Dixon plan, it might go farther than that. What if McLaren runs a full season car in 2020, like it planned to do in 2019? What if that car was supported by Andretti. Who would they get to drive? How about McLaren picking up Rossi’s salary to drive an Andretti-McLaren all season, just like they had planned to do with Dixon?
By now, you should know something about god. At least where god’s office is, if not knowing the actual personage. God is whoever has the power within the Honda heirarchy to bury the hatchet with McLaren.
There’s two ways this works out:
The happy one for Honda is that Honda ends the feud with McLaren. But if it doesn’t they could lose Rossi.
This is how it would play out: McLaren buys into the Harding-Steinbrenner team to run as Team McLaren-Honda for 2020. One full time Andretti-supported car for the season, and an extra car for Alonso at the 500. It could be either Chevy or Honda. But either way Andretti seems set on partnering with McLaren and making sure his other friend (Harding) gets financial support.
In one scenario, Rossi is the McLaren driver. In another its Herta and the Steinbrenner name remains.
If Honda goes along, everyone except Chevy is happy. If Honda stands on principal and refuses to deal with McLaren, then Rossi has a decision to make:
1) Stay with Andretti/McLaren and leave Honda.
2) Take as many of his engineers as possible with him to either Arrow or Ganassi with help from Honda.
From the Honda side, this works out one of three ways:
1) Best-case — Status quo from a driver and team point of view, with the addition of the McLaren name showing up with a Honda logo alongside it.
2) Bad but not awful—Honda loses Andretti, likely Ryan Hunter-Reay (although he is a free agent also) and Colton Herta. Honda keeps Rossi and he is placed with Ganassi (probably), Arrow or Rahal-Letterman-Lanigan. Honda would also pick up Carlin Racing.
3) Worst-case scenario – Honda loses Andretti, Rossi and Herta, and picks up Carlin.
Because driver talent wins races and championships in Indycar, the worst case is truly a disaster when you look at the roster of teams and drivers that would remain.
In that scenario, I could see Honda thinking long and hard about leaving Indycar.
That’s where I think things stand. It depends on how stubborn Honda is about standing on principal versus recognizing the value of a generational talent for their racing program, and doing what needs to be done. After Rossi’s performance at Long Beach, Indy, Texas and Road America, it should be obvious to Honda what the price of corporate pride really is.