Alonso makes McLaren IndyCar appearance

The McLaren racing orange made its first public appearance at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as double world champion Fernando Alonso steps behind the wheel of the Andretti Autosport-run Dallara-Honda in prepartion for the Indy 500.

Alonso will compete in IndyCar’s major race at the famous 2.5-mile oval instead of the Monaco Grand Prix, which is on the same weekend.

The McLaren and Andretti Autosport’s IndyCar is entirely bedecked in traditional orange colours, as used when it last won the Indianapolis 500 with Johnny Rutherford in 1976, bar a silver strip at the front of the nose section.

Alonso conducted a rookie orientation programme in preparation for the Indy 500. The Formula 1 racer completed a series of runs, steadily improving his speed as Fernando gained confidence on the oval.

Event rookies have to complete laps within prescribed speed ranges to be eligible for participation in the 500 and before they are allowed to run at full pace.

Alonso’s target was to cover ten laps at 205-210mph, 15 laps at 210-215mph, and then 15 laps between 215mph and 220mph.

He achieved this over a total of 51 laps spread across four runs in his first hour on track in his McLaren/Honda/Andretti-entered Dallara, posting a fastest average lap speed of 219.654mph.

Speaking after completing the rookie programme, Alonso said: “It was fun, it’s a good way to start, to build the speed.

“It was probably a little bit difficult in the beginning to reach the minimum [speed], but then on the next stages it felt good.

“Now hopefully we can put some laps in and start feeling the car – at the moment the car is driving myself, I am not driving the car.

“I do feel more comfortable, just because with 30 laps, 40 laps in the pocket you can fine tune the lines, which gear to use in which corner.

“At the moment everything looks good, but now starts the real thing.”

So a good first day feeling after a series of runs. It’s going to be a challenge for Alonso to qualify and then race in the Indianapolis 500. Best of luck Fernando.

5 thoughts to “Alonso makes McLaren IndyCar appearance”

  1. Fernando Alonso said his Andretti Autosport car “was driving itself” during his first test in Indianapolis ahead of the Indy 500.

    The Spanish Formula 1 driver completed Rookie Orientation Practice on Wednesday, clearing the way for him to participate in the race later this month.

    Alonso completed 55 laps in the Dallara DW12 with a peak average speed of 219.654mph after what team boss Michael Andretti labelled a “perfect” run.

    The two-time F1 champion said he now wanted to focus on getting a better feeling for the car, as he felt it was driving itself.

    “It was fun,” said Alonso. “I think it’s a good way to start to build the speed. It was probably a little bit difficult at the beginning to reach the minimum, but in the next stages I felt good.

    “Hopefully we can put some laps now and start feeling the car a little bit because at the moment the car is driving itself. I’m not driving the car.”

    He added: “We are already with 40 laps in my pocket so you are able to fine-tune the lines a little bit and up-shifts and down-shifts, which gear to use in which corner.

    “At the moment everything looks good but now the real thing starts.”

    The McLaren driver praised the Andretti Autosport squad for being “amazingly helpful” during his first day of running at the IMS.

    “So far it has been good. The team was amazingly helpful. Running alone is quite okay, but we’ll see later over the next weeks,” he said.


  2. Alonso breezes through Indianapolis rookie orientation test as reported by

    Two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso needed about one hour of track time today to pass his rookie orientation test for the 101st Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil.

    “It was fun,” Alonso said during a break on pit road after his No. 29 McLaren-Honda-Andretti car had completed 51 laps just before noon ET. “At this moment, everything looks good. Now it’s time to start the real thing.”

    Alonso made quick work of the three rookie orientation phases with 10 laps at 205-210 mph, 15 laps at 210-215 mph and 15 laps at 215-plus mph.

    Andretti Autosport teammate Marco Andretti shook down the car, which is painted in classic Team McLaren papaya orange. McLaren is returning to the Indy 500 on May 28 for the first time in 38 years.

    Practice for the Indianapolis 500 begins May 15 with qualifying on May 20-21, so the 35-year-old Spaniard has a lot to learn in a short time. He’s still had to juggle F1 commitments, which has meant an overabundance of travel. Alonso was unable to start Sunday’s Russian Grand Prix due to engine issues and will compete in the Spanish Grand Prix next week.

    Although he ranks sixth on F1’s all-time win list with 32 victories and celebrated world championships in 2005 and 2006, Alonso hasn’t won a race since 2013 and his interest in enhancing his racing resume will require him to drive faster than ever before at 230 mph down the front straightaway at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

    A day after preparing in a racing simulator, Alonso said his confidence grew with each passing lap. By 1:30 p.m. ET, he had completed 88 laps with a top speed of 222.548 mph.

    “I think it’s a good way to start, to build speed,” he said. “It was difficult at (the) beginning to reach the minimum speed. The next stages felt good, not because of the speed but because of the laps. You’re able to fine-tune the lines; upshift, downshift, which gears to use in the corner.

    “The simulator is quite realistic. You have the first impression of how it’s going to be. But the real car is a unique feeling. When you have to go flat out in the corner, it’s not the same in the simulator as in the real car.”

    Andretti Autosport CEO Michael Andretti, who will field six cars in the race including defending champion Alexander Rossi, liked what he saw from Alonso’s initial experience.

    “That was great,” Andretti said. “He did everything he was supposed to do. Now it’s time to go play a bit. So far, everything is really perfect. We had one trim we started with, so we have a reference of where we need to go.

    “He gets it. He’s one of the best in the world and you can see why. He had a little bit of understeer in that run and he adjusted his line because of the understeer. He’s the real deal. I think he’s going to be really strong this month.”

    Three generations of Andretti racers – Mario, Michael and Marco – as well as Rossi and 2003 Indy 500 winner Gil de Ferran were among those giving Alonso advice. Mario won the 1969 Indy 500, Michael has celebrated four Indy 500 victories as an owner in addition to leading the most laps (431) without winning as a driver and Marco was a rookie runner-up in 2006 and is in his 12th season as a Verizon IndyCar Series regular.

    “The team has been amazingly helpful,” Alonso said. “Running alone is quite OK. We’ll see in the next weeks. So far a good experience. Now is the real deal.”

    Marco Andretti said cooler track conditions, with ambient temperatures in the low 50s, combined with Alonso the only driver on track provided an ideal setting for the initiation. Alonso kept churning out laps amid a threat of afternoon showers as darker clouds drifted over the speedway.

    “With this level of downforce, this is like race downforce, when there’s no traffic and you’re by yourself, it’s just stuck,” Marco Andretti said. “The front and rear are stuck right now, which is what you want for the first run.”

    And what of sorting out the input from so many voices?

    “He’ll have to learn by fire from a lot of it,” Marco said. “But he’s asking the right questions.

    “He’ll be fine. He’s a race car driver. He’ll leave today pretty confident.”

    The test could run as late as 5 p.m. ET, weather permitting.

  3. Fernando Alonso “couldn’t be in better situation” for Indy debut according to Mario Andretti. has the news story.

    Mario Andretti believes Fernando Alonso “couldn’t be in a better situation” for his Indianapolis test debut on Wednesday, and will enjoy the experience of running at such high speeds for the first time.

    The two-time F1 world champion will make his debut at the wheel of the Andretti Autosport car as he attempts to complete Rookie Orientation Practice ahead of this month’s Indy 500.

    Andretti, who will be part of the commentary team for the live broadcast of the test, believes that his son Michael’s outfit will help Alonso to settle in.

    “He’ll have some fun, he’ll be fine,” the 1978 world champion told “At the end of the day it couldn’t be a better situation. Marco is going to shake the car down, and it’s going to have enough downforce that even I could get in and be on it on the second lap!

    “It’s going to be very easy just to be acclimated to the line and the speed itself. A guy like him should be able to do quick laps. He’ll be able to get a good day’s work in, and he’ll go away very pleased, I’m sure.”

    Andretti believes that the biggest challenge Alonso faces over the days of practice leading up to his 500 debut will be getting used to traffic.

    “The single biggest difference will be being around the other cars, estimating what the closing rates are and so on, and learning how the other guys behave. The driving is quite good now in IndyCar, there’s really a good crop of drivers.

    “The luxury that he has is that Michael has six cars, and six cars can go out there and have their own race. That’s what they did last year. They’ll do a lot of slipstreaming back and forth, and overtaking, and really get a feel for things.

    “He has nothing to lose in F1 at the moment, and there could be no better way to really try this and see what it feels like. I guarantee you that by the time the race comes along he will be quite well prepared.”

    Andretti believes that Alonso’s Indy adventure can only be positive.

    “Overall, I think it’s the best possible scenario, in my opinion. The choice of bringing Jenson in for Monaco is brilliant. It’s a win-win situation all round, at least going in. It’s good for F1, it’s good for the sport, and it’s got that injection of interest in it, which we can all enjoy.”

    His only concern is that the Spaniard may be distracted by an overdose of friendly advice.

    “I hope he doesn’t get too many people in his hair! Quite honestly I wouldn’t even want that, ‘just leave me alone, let me try it.’ He’ll ask the right questions.”

  4. Andretti Autosport team owner Michael Andretti says Fernando Alonso’s competence and attitude as he went through Rookie Orientation Practice showed his quality.

    Andretti told NBCSN’s Robin Miller: “He did perfect, everything that he was supposed to do – got through all three phases [of ROP] so now we can go play a little bit.

    “He’s looking at data right now… so he can see what’s on the data compared to what he’s feeling out on the track. We’ll probably get into a couple of trims, just so that he can get a feel of that. And then probably we’re going to have some weather to deal with after that.

    “But so far, everything’s really perfect.”

    Andretti added that Alonso’s increasing use of the Speedway’s track width was an indicator that the two-time World Champion was adapting well to ovals.

    “He gets it; he’s one of the best in the world and you can see why,” said Andreti. “He watched what he was doing with his line, he was changing it up lap after lap to get a feel.

    “He had a little bit of understeer and he adjusted his line for the understeer, so, you know… he’s the real deal. He was experimenting. One time I thought he was a little low but then the next lap he got it back up there a little bit, so it was good.”

    Asked if it still felt like a big deal, Andretti said: “Well, it’s exciting, when Zak [Brown, McLaren CEO] and Mark Miles [IndyCar CEO] called me, I was like, ‘OK, I don’t know how we’re going to do this but we’re going to do it, we’re going to figure out a way to get it done’.

    “It was just good teamwork, everybody working together to get it done. It’s too big of a story, too big of a deal for our team, to have somebody like Fernando running with us, and being associated with McLaren – it’s just a fantastic opportunity for us that we were not going to let slip by.”


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