London - Fernando Alonso faces the busiest year of any Formula One driver while playing down fears he could be spreading himself too thin by competing in two world championships at once.
He'll get one campaign started next week when he lines up for McLaren at the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne, the first of a record-equalling 21 F1 races around the world in the 2018 season.
The former double F1 world champion, who competed in the Indianapolis 500 in 2017, will also race for Toyota at the Le Mans 24 Hours in June and in the full World Endurance championship.
Alonso's road to Le Mans, as well as McLaren's new start in Formula One with Renault engines after three dismal years with Honda, will be among the top storylines of the motorsport year.
"The only concern is travelling," he told reporters during winter testing in Barcelona when asked about his ambitious programme. "Travelling is going to be energy-consuming and I need to be very efficient on that.
"Every delay on the flight or every connection that you miss is going to hurt this year. So hopefully everything runs smoothly."
The target is to become only the second driver to achieve the so-called 'Triple Crown' of motorsport, a feat completed by the late Briton Graham Hill in 1972 - winning the Indianapolis 500, the Le Mans 24 Hours and the Formula One championship, although it can also be the Monaco Grand Prix which Alonso has won twice.
Alonso, who led at Indianapolis before his car broke down, competed in the Daytona 24 Hours in January to acclimatise himself and is up for the challenge.
"There are many things that I am now in the point of my career that I can deal with," he said. "Probably a couple of years ago maybe I didn’t have the knowledge of all of the areas.
"So I thought now was the time to do it and I feel ready. I think in terms of mental approach it’s going to be not an issue because every time you jump in the car you want to be competitive. Physically, while driving it’s going to be OK."
McLaren executive director Zak Brown said Alonso was the kind of person who would be racing something during his down time anyway.
He also pointed out that while the World Endurance Championship 'Super Season' comprised eight rounds, only five were in 2018 with the rest in 2019 and ending at a second Le Mans. And one of the five was during the August break.
"What a lot people don’t know is he’s karting every weekend," added Brown. "If he wasn’t going to be in an LMP1 prototype, he would have been in a kart or something else. I’ve never seen somebody who wants to literally live in a race car like he does - if he was at a supermarket it would be 'Let's race the trolleys'."
I just think if he’s at a grocery store it would be ‘let’s race the karts’."
Alonso will not be doing anything more than drive for Toyota and WEC organisers have bent over backwards to fit in, to the extent of moving the Fuji Six Hours to avoid a clash with the U.S. Grand Prix in Austin. But if there are any conflicts, McLaren come first.
"He’s a McLaren driver on loan for those weekends," said Brown, who was a key figure in Alonso's headline-grabbing Indianapolis bid. "His responsibilities there are pretty much driving, so he’s not going to have the same level of promotional work, sponsor commitments that would normally come along with it.
"And he’s well prepared and focused on what preparation it takes. If he thinks he can do it, we have no reason to believe that he can’t."Reuters