One month is a very small window of time to go from never having driven on an oval, to racing in the Indianapolis 500, no matter how talented of a racer somebody might be. If Fernando Alonso didn’t appreciate that before, he certainly does now.
Alonso told reporters Wednesday that, despite completing three days of running on the oval at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, he still has a lot of work to do to get where he wants to be come race day, according to Motorsport.com.
The Spaniard completed a combined 282 laps of the 2 1/2-mile track across three test days — 172 laps between Monday and Tuesday, and 110 laps on May 3 — including his first experience racing in traffic with his Andretti Autosport teammates.
“I feel happy, but definitely not comfortable,” Alonso said, via Motorsport.com. “Yesterday, especially thanks to the traffic running, I was much more comfortable and happier with the position we are now. (But there’s) still a lot to come.”
Despite overcoming his initial hesitance to lap IMS flat-out to post the fastest time of any rookie in Monday’s test, Alonso hasn’t found his ideal setup yet. He reportedly has been focusing on understanding how IndyCars behave, as they’re nothing like his Formula One car.
“Obviously in the first couple of days in the car, all the setup changes I did were transparent for me because I was not able to feel the car,” Alonso told reporters. “Now I start to do so, so I’m happy.”
Alonso still is confident he will get up to speed in time for qualifying, as is his teammate Marco Andretti.
Andretti said Tuesday, via Motorsport.com, that Alonso chose the perfect year to make his Indy 500 debut, as the team can work off data from last year’s race, which its driver Alexander Rossi won. In 2018, however, IndyCar’s new aero kits essentially will wipe the slate clean for everybody.
“Next year there will be a steep learning curve for us,” Andretti said. “You’re always learning. But we have these cars pretty wrung out at this point. I think this is a pretty ideal year.”
Even if Alonso doesn’t win the race in 2017, running in the 500 still will benefit him down the line. Should he return to try again to secure the second of three wins he needs for the triple crown, he can spend the pre-race tests fine-tuning his racecraft, rather than reinventing it, as he is this year.
Thumbnail photo via Brian Spurlock/USA TODAY Sports Images