Alonso suffers ‘serious setback’ in Indy preparations

Michelle Foster


Fernando Alonso’s No.66 car sat in the McLaren garage throughout Thursday’s practice for the Indianapolis 500 as the team gave it some “extra TLC” following Wednesday’s crash.

Alonso has managed just 96 laps in practice for the 2019 Indianapolis 500 after suffering a heavy shunt on Wednesday.

The double F1 champ, who needs the Indy 500 win to seal motor racing’s Triple Crown, tripped up on the minimal grip at Turn Three, crashed heavily into the outside barriers before spinning across the grass and into the inside wall.

His No66 McLaren spun back across the track and again hit the outside wall.

Alonso was unhurt but the damage cost him a day’s play as McLaren discovered that they also needed to change the engine as it too had been damaged in the crash.

“It’s definitely slow going,” said McLaren chief Zak Brown.

“We had to borrow pieces from the one car and move them to the other car, bring in bits from an outside location, change the engine.

“It’s been a lot of work.

“We’re just trying to get it done right, put some extra TLC in it and make sure it is ready to go.”

The team finished up the car late in the day only for heavy rain to arrive at the Brickyard, bringing an end to the day’s play.

Alonso has one day of practice remaining before Saturday’s qualifying where 36 drivers will do their best to take the 33 entries for the Indianapolis 500.

Brown says the team, and Alonso, remain confident of qualifying for the race.

“I’ve seen lots of drama here before, and I don’t want any drama,” he added.

“The speed in the car (Wednesday) seemed to be OK, Fernando will get right back up to speed, he’s not fazed, so I think we are just trying to put together a car that is ready to go and ready to perform.”

Meanwhile McLaren sporting director Gil de Ferran explained that after Wednesday’s crash, the team reviewed the damage and took the decision to change to the backup car.

He added: “During that process, it also transpired that we had damaged the engine and that resulted in an engine change that added an additional workload.

“While we have a number of experienced individuals in the team, we are still relatively new as a crew. Because of this and the fact that we have deep respect for Indianapolis, we are being careful and measured in our approach and want to ensure we’re sending the best possible car out on track.

“Not running today was a serious setback to our Indy 500 program, but all is not lost. We should have a full day of practice and preparations for qualifying tomorrow and our goal will be to have a nice, clean day.”

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