SATURDAY MORNING UPDATE:
Sebastien Vetel won the pole Saturday for Sunday's Grand Prix of Singapore. He edged his Red Bull-Renault teammate, Mark Webber, in final qualifying.
Jenson Button of McLaren-Mercedes will start third, with Lewis Hamilton fourth. Fernando Alonso of Ferrari will go off fifth, just ahead of teammate Felipe Massa.
Nico Rosberg of Mercedes will start seventh. Positions eight through 10, held by Michael Schumacher (Mercedes) and Adrian Sutil and Paul di Resta of Ford India-Mercedes, saw their drivers sit in the pits and not attempt to improve their position following second qualifying - a problem for F1.
The race can be seen on TSN Sunday morning, starting at 7:55.
Earlier . . .
The news in the email in-box Friday morning came right out of left field.
Group Lotus has announced that ex-F1 pilot Jean Alesi, 47, will come out of retirement next year and race in the Indianapolis 500.
Just what that race needs: a whole bunch of old, retired racing drivers coming back for one more kick at the can.
Can Jacques Villeneuve be far behind? (That is, unless he purchases the Red Bull NASCAR stock car team, which is a distinct possibility.)
How about Kimi Raikkonen? David Coulthard? Ralf Schumacher? (Hey, if Michael retires from F1, he could run Indy too!)
Alex Zanardi? Don’t bet against it.
This could open the floodgates.
Forget about all the young men and women coming up the line. The Geritol set will soon dominate this field.
Okay, here is what the Group Lotus press release says:
“Scheduled for 27 May 2012, Group Lotus brand ambassador Jean Alesi will make his return to competitive racing flying the flag for Group Lotus at the world’s biggest motorsport race — the 96th Indy 500.
“Despite his considerable experience, Jean has never before taken on competitive oval racing. Following a 12 year stint in F1 from 1989 to 2001, Alesi moved onto DTM racing and then last year made his most recent competitive race appearance in the Le Mans Series.
“In January 2011, he joined Group Lotus as a brand ambassador and development consultant on the F1 customer race car, the T125. Although never straying far from the race track, the Indy 500 and oval racing represent completely new challenges for Jean.
“Commenting on the announcement Jean Alesi said: ‘I’m thrilled that Lotus has given me the opportunity to compete in such a world famous race. It’s going to be a very special experience for me but I also know that I have a lot of hard work ahead. I’m very focused on the task I’m facing — I’m taking my training very seriously, I have some amazing support on this front from a ‘comeback’ expert and of course I will be testing extensively. I’m really excited about the race.’ ”
And so on.
Translation of the above:
IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard flew to Europe several weeks ago to find out what the story was/is with Lotus. Lotus committed to providing engines for the series, starting in 2012, along with Honda and Chevrolet.
While Honda and Chevy have made announcements about their participation, including signing teams to run their powerplants, there has been very little from Lotus – until now.
The signal sent today, of course, is that Lotus will be ready for 2012 and is serious about its participation.
But Jean Alesi? Nice guy and not-bad F1 driver - once upon a time (he won the Canadian Grand Prix in 1995).
But when I think of Alesi at Indy as a rookie at age 47, two words come to mind: Nelson Piquet.
The Indy 500 has been the Greatest Spectacle in Racing because it is. The last thing it – and North American open wheel racing — needs is for it to become farce.