Two-time Formula One World Champion, Fernando Alonso and seven-time NASCAR champion, Jimmie Johnson are to swap cars for a day later this month.
The swap, which was revealed in a video posted on Twitter, will see the two drive one another’s cars at the Bahrain International Circuit on 26 November, the day after the F1 season finale in nearby Abu Dhabi.
The swap, which comes at time Alonso has yet to reveal his plans for 2019, though they do not include F1 or a full IndyCar season, is understood to be a bit more than the usual car swap, and will involve Johnson spending time in the McLaren simulator beforehand. The American and members of his race crew will then be guests of McLaren at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
The swap is sure to raise speculation over Alonso’s plans for 2019, as the Spaniard continues to pursue his dream of motor sport’s triple-crown, two parts of which – winning the Monaco Grand Prix and the Le Mans 24-hours – he has already fulfilled, leaving ‘only’ the Indy 500 to be won.
Speaking in Texas shortly after the announcement Johnson told reporters that he first met Alonso during the NASCAR media tour at the beginning of the year, the Spaniard attending as part of an IMSA press conference for participants in the 24 Hours of Daytona.
“We met there, traded up numbers, stayed in touch,” revealed the 43-year-old. “It wasn’t long after that and he may have even mentioned it there, ‘Hey, we ought to trade cars’, and I was like, ‘You don’t have to ask me twice’. I went after it right away. I wasn’t going to let a passing comment slow me down.”
Asked what he thought Alonso’s intentions might be, Johnson said: “His desires are much like a Foyt or an Andretti, a Parnelli Jones where they raced everything. Fernando is putting himself in position to really be able to do that from IndyCar, F1, sports cars and who knows where the NASCAR opportunity will take him.
“At least he gets to drive a car. I’ve been in a few different conversations with guys and I think a lot of us miss that era of time where Jones would go race anywhere around the world, Andretti was all over the place and I feel like there is a chance for that to start coming back.
“I think it will probably be more common as drivers get later in their career and have these opportunities come around, they’ll start taking them. I’m certainly planning on doing that. I don’t have anything vetted out yet. When I’m done full-time Cup racing, I’m not done racing.”
Indeed the American was keen to make clear that the exercise isn’t a promotional exercise for sponsors but a full-blown opportunity for two drivers form entirely different disciplines to try one another’s cars, with Johnson’s team, Hendrick Motorsports, taking plenty of tyres in order that Alonso can “run as long as he wants to get the full experience”.
“They are offering that same thing for me,” he admitted. “We offered up the chance to let Alonso come run the Chevy simulator but the schedule didn’t work out from the beginning to do that.
“It’s probably a bigger change for me to go from our cars to his, so he suggested stopping by McLaren and taking a tour of the shop, the city. I was like, ‘Oh yeah, I’ll take everything’. Why not? This is the chance of a lifetime. I’ll take everything they will let me do, I’m all for it.”