Two-time Formula 1 champion Fernando Alonso just secured 5th place on the grid for the 2017 Indy 500. Climb on-board to see the 231.3mph / 372kph lap that took him there…
More than likely, the past two and a half seasons of Formula 1 has you questioning why Fernando Alonso, arguably the greatest F1 driver of his generation, is languishing at the back of the grid instead of finding competitive drives elsewhere. If not, his recent IndyCar oval form certainly should.
Last month, Alonso shocked the world when he announced he would be skipping F1’s crown jewel – the Monaco Grand Prix – in favour of a shot at Indy 500 glory, despite the two-time champion having no previous experience of oval racing. That McLaren, a three-time winner of the Indy 500 as a constructor, was behind the decision was impressive. That Alonso would take a berth at leading IndyCar team Andretti Autosport was sensational. Even so, nobody expected the F1 legend to be the 5th fastest man on-track come the end of qualifying.
Let’s break this down: Alonso’s 231.3mph (around 372kph) run was enough to place him higher in the top ten than former series champions Tony Kanaan and Will Power, as well as reigning Indy Lights Champion Ed Jones. It was also only 0.864mph (374kph, ish) slower than pole-sitter Scott Dixon managed, a man who has won the IndyCar title four times, the Indy 500 once, and has raced in America since leaving his native New Zealand in 1999. And once again – because it bears repeating – Alonso’s only previous oval experience was his shakedown test with Andretti Autosport. Three weeks ago.
That is every single kind of mental, and has left most die-hard motorsport fans, previously praying that Alonso wouldn’t tarnish his legacy with a potentially poor run at The Brickyard, now wondering if maybe, just maybe, he can actually do it. If somehow, MAYBE, the Spaniard could actually take on America’s biggest motor race, and win it at his first attempt. Rest assured, Snr Alonso, you will have the collective hope of every F1 fan on the planet behind you.
Unfortunately Alonso’s lap wasn’t the only talking point from qualifying. Four-time CART / IndyCar champion and former Toro Rosso incumbent Sebastien Bourdais suffered an hellacious, 227mph (365kph) head-on shunt into the barriers at turn two, an impact that registered 118G. Bourdais, who won the opening round of the IndyCar season in St Petersburg, suffered multiple fractures to his pelvis and hip, and will sit out the rest of the IndyCar season. That hasn’t stopped the man talking with American giants Chip Ganassi Racing about a race seat for this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans in one of the team’s Ford GT! What exactly are these guys made of…?