Fernando Alonso was highly impressed by Jimmie Johnson’s performance as a seven time champion in the world of NASCAR when the two decided to swap cars on Monday at the Bahrain International Circuit. After numerous attempts, Jimmie Johnson set a time within 0.02 seconds of the benchmark set by Alonso in the 2013 McLaren F1 car, while Fernando Alonso managed to eclipse Jimmie Johnson’s installation lap by four seconds in the NASCAR.
The Brilliant Idea to Swap Rides
The idea behind swapping rides on Monday initially started in January when the two world-class drivers met in Daytona during the Rolex 24 Hours, transforming the dream into a reality last week in Bahrain, occurring just one day after Fernando Alonso participated in his last F1 race. The overall idea was quite simplistic: Fernando Alonso would take the wheel of the 2018 Henrick Motorsport NASCAR, while Jimmie Johnson would test the 2013 McLaren MP4, which is one of the last V8 screamers in Formula 1.
Within 24 hours after he completed the final lap of his Formula 1 career, Fernando Alonso returned behind the wheel of a Formula 1 car less than an hour into the event. Once Johnson tested his Chevrolet, Alonso decided to return the favor with a total of 3 laps in the McLaren, allowing him to set the benchmark time of 1 minute 40 seconds.
“In all honesty, I wasn’t supposed to drive the McLaren and was only meant to drive the NASCAR. However, it made more sense to test the car before Johnson grabbed it to ensure everything was fine,” Alonso stated. “I was in the cockpit at 11 am after I decided to retire from Formula 1 yesterday.”
More Than Just a Day of Fun
Even though the opportunity was initially pitched as a glorious day of fun and excitement for both racers, running two world-class race cars is undoubtedly serious business. This was especially true when Johnson decided to take the McLaren out for a spin, lifting the bottom of his helmet due to the airflow of the open cockpit, placing strain on his chin strap during the first outing.
“During the first outing, the helmet I used was continuously trying to remove itself from my head. It was actually so high that I starred at the microphone,” Johnson stated. “I constantly thought to myself, I don’t want to slow down or stop, but I believe it’s the best course of action.”
Fortunately, there is always a solution in Formula 1, and in this case a thin Perspex windscreen was attached to the cockpit which helped with redirecting the airflow. Even though this was not ideal, it was acceptable for a 5 lap run, allowing Johnson to push the car to its limits.
Meanwhile, Alonso quickly grew accustomed to Johnson’s NASCAR, having loads of fun as he got familiar with brand-new machinery. “There was loads of problems with breaking and traction, but I had loads of fun on the track nonetheless.” Alonso stated.