Fernando Alonso smooth in first full-field Indy 500 practice session

Chris Owens/IndyCar

By Aaron Bearden, Motorsports Editor

One day after scoring a 12th-place finish in the Formula One Spanish Grand Prix, Fernando Alonso returned to Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Verizon IndyCar Series successfully with a respectable showing in his first full-field practice session.

Piloting the No. 29 McLaren Honda Andretti, Alonso led the way in the early afternoon’s Rookie Orientation and Veteran Refresher practice before slotting in 19th in the four-hour session held for the full field after running an additional 20 laps.

For Alonso, 35, Monday’s opening day of Indianapolis 500 practice offered the first chance to compare his speed and form in the Dallara DW12 chassis with the rest of the IndyCar paddock in the same session. The Spaniard’s only previous experience in an indy car – a special test session on May 3 – was contested with the track to himself.

Talking with the media after the race, Alonso expressed optimism over his performance.

“Everything went very smooth,” Alonso said. “We had some issues with the rear suspension and we could not complete the program that we were planning to run a little bit in traffic at the end of the day, so we missed that part, but overall it was an amazing day.

“Happier than the first day with the car because I was able to feel some of the setup changes that we were planning in the morning. Yeah, I feel good. … No big issues, no dramas, so a very, very positive day.”

While his day smooth overall, Alonso did face a few difficulties in his return to IndyCar. The racing surface saw vastly different conditions from his first test day, with temperatures rising as much as 20 degrees higher on a sunny Indiana day. The two-time Formula One World Champion also missed valuable track time at the end of the day, when conditions often prove favorable, due to rear end issues.

“I was a little bit concerned about the conditions, about the temperature, much hotter today than the test we did here on the 3rd (of May),” Alonso said. “But no, the car felt good, felt as good as in the test, and I was able to make some setup changes, without, as I said, losing the confidence in the car. Everything went very smooth.

“The last half an hour maybe we had some issues with the rear suspension, and we could not complete the program that we were planning to run a little bit in traffic at the end of the day, so we missed that part, but overall it was an amazing day. Happier than the first day with the car because I was able to feel some of the setup changes that we were planning in the morning, and I feel good.”

The two-time Monaco Grand Prix winner will get another look at the famed 2.5-mile Indianapolis oval on Tuesday, wherein Alonso hopes to spend more time in traffic.

“Not much running in traffic, so still the thing that I need to go through in the next couple of days, so that is something we need to chase tomorrow in the program,” Alonso said. But I did two or three laps behind some cars that were going out of pit lane, and it was good fun, so I’m looking forward, and running along is enough.”
Were Alonso to overcome the odds and win the Indy 500, he would hold two steps of the famed Triple Crown of Motorsport – Monaco (F1), Indianapolis (IndyCar) – with just the 24 Hours of LeMans (FIA World Endurance Championship) left to claim.

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