Jean Alesi has decided to retire from motor racing.
At the wheel of Lotus’ highly uncompetitive car, the F1 veteran made his Indy 500 debut this year and vowed to return in 2013 with a better performance.
But the 48-year-old Frenchman, who won just one grand prix for Ferrari during his 202-grand prix career between 1989 and 2001, announced this week he is in fact quitting.
“I do not feel like hunting for sponsors,” Alesi told the French sports daily L’Equipe.
Rubens Barrichello earned more than US $330,000 in Sunday’s Indy 500. At the age of 40 and with an unprecedented 326 grands prix behind him, the famous Brazilian was the highest placed newcomer in the fabled American oval race. It means he was crowned the official ‘rookie of the year’ title for his eleventh place finish, earning him $331,080 in prize money.
“My first oval experience, it was very different than anything I’ve done,” said Barrichello. “It’s a pity that we didn’t finish top ten but I can be proud of that for my first time out.”
Winner Dario Franchitti’s earnings were almost $2.5 million.
Barrichello’s fellow grand prix winner Jean Alesi, however, went home empty handed, having been disqualified for lapping too slowly in his Lotus-powered Indycar.
“It was frustrating but the (105pc) regulation is fair and I leave with a lot of respect for the Indy 500,” said the 47-year-old Frenchman. “I hope to return next year. I will start to prepare now.”
Former F1 driver Takuma Sato almost won Sunday’s running of the fabled Indy 500. Instead, the Japanese 35-year-old, the former Jordan, Honda and Super Aguri driver until 2008, crashed into the wall after an audacious last-lap attempt to pass Dario Franchitti, who went on to win under yellow flags.
The Indianapolis Star’s Bob Kravitz said the move was “brave; it was stupid. It was courageous; it was irresponsible. If it had worked … it would have become the stuff of legend”.
Former Toyota test driver Ryan Briscoe, the polesitter, finished fifth, while ex Minardi and Jaguar racer Justin Wilson was seventh. Rubens Barrichello finished his first Indy 500 11th, while former Toro Rosso driver Sebastien Bourdais was 20th. Jean Alesi, with his heavily underpowered Lotus engine, was disqualified for running slower than the allowed 105 per cent.
Jean-Eric Vergne will race F1 veteran Jean Alesi’s helmet design this weekend in Monaco. It is Vergne’s tribute to his French countryman as former Ferrari and Sauber driver Alesi, 47, this weekend becomes the youngest ever rookie in the Indy 500.
Vergne, 22, had planned to watch Alesi from Indianapolis’ fabled stands, “but then came the news I was driving for Toro Rosso and of course that meant a clash with Monaco”.
Alesi starts the Indy 500 from 33rd and last, with the vastly-underpowered Lotus engine.
Jean Alesi would like to see the pressure eased on the shoulders of France’s new F1 hope.
Until Sunday, Alesi was the last French driver to have stood on a Formula One podium, after taking his Sauber to third at Spa in 1998. Romain Grosjean therefore ended a 14-year podium drought for France, tasting top-three spoils in just his eleventh race in F1.
“(Grosjean as) My successor?” Alesi told RMC Sport. “I don’t see it that way. It’s promising but we need to leave him alone now,” the 47-year-old veteran of 202 grands prix over 13 seasons insisted.
Alesi is referring to the media hype about Grosjean after the first two races, when he failed to get his Lotus around even the first lap in Australia and Malaysia. He then scored his first ever points in China and seven days later was on the podium, triggering press speculation in France that the tones of ‘La Marseillaise’ are next. But there remains other pressures on Grosjean; exalted as France’s new hope, and at the same time accused of preventing Kimi Raikkonen from winning in Bahrain by not letting his faster teammate through in the absence of team orders.
“I know what I’m talking about,” said Alesi. “Since the beginning of the season there have been all sorts of comments about him. That isn’t right.
“He needs to have calm and take the time that he needs to get on top of everything. When it’s a podium, we’re all happy but when it’s a bad performance, we all have to be behind him too,” he added.