Electrical gremlins on Tuesday and the first crash of the month on Wednesday have put a damper on Fernando Alonso’s much-anticipated return to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for his second Indianapolis 500 attempt.
Alonso’s performance in Practice 1 was hampered when his No. 66 McLaren Racing Chevrolet succumbed to electrical issues, limiting him to 50 laps during his five hours of track time. The total was well off the session-high 128 laps turned by Spencer Pigot. Across the 39 car-and-driver combinations that took to the track, the average number of laps completed was 68.
McLaren’s preparations for the 500-mile race went from bad to worse when Alonso’s car experienced significant understeer 95 minutes into Wednesday’s similar seven-hour Practice 2. After contacting the Turn 3 SAFER Barrier with the right side of his race car, Alonso then shot toward the wall on the inside of the turn where rear contact was made. The Dallara-built machine then ricocheted back onto the track where it came to a rest.
“It was understeer on the car and even if I lifted the throttle on the entry of the corner, it was not enough and I lost completely the front aero,” said Alonso. “The wall came too close and too quickly. Unfortunately, it happened today.
“We will lose a little bit of running time again. I’m sorry for the team, but we will learn and, hopefully, we will come back stronger tomorrow.”
Alonso was uninjured in the incident and was cleared to drive by INDYCAR Medical Director Dr. Geoffrey Billows. Whether Alonso’s car is repairable remains an open question while the team continues to assess the damage.
Per Gil De Ferran, the team’s sporting director, the incident came at an unfortunate time after much effort was made to correct Tuesday’s electrical problem leading to a more well-behaved car as Practice 2 got underway.
“There’s no denying the past few days have impacted our preparations, but we do feel we have a direction for where we need to take the setup of the car,” said De Ferran. “We’re pulling together as a team, Fernando is in great spirits and we just have to keep working in a calm and determined manner.”
Whether in a repaired or replacement car, Alonso is expected to return to the 2.5-mile track Thursday for further practice ahead of two days of qualifying May 18 and 19 when three of the 36 entries will be bumped to create the field of 33.