Fernando Alonso, two-time Formula 1 champion and who also represents McLaren in F1, will be skipping the Monaco Grand Prix this month. Jenson Button will substitute for him. But why? To drive the #29 entry McLaren-Honda-Andretti at IndyCar’s flagship event in Indianapolis.
At the IndyCar event, Alonso will be driving a papaya orange car just like the one he drives in Formula 1 2017. The Woking-based team decided they would bring back its iconic former colour this year. Johnny Rutherford won the Indy 500 twice in 1974 and 1976 with the McLaren, painted in papaya orange on both races.
The Spaniard racer had to complete a rookie test and said that it was a “fun” experience for him. All drivers who will race at Indianapolis for the first time are required to take this test, and only those who pass can enter the 500-mile event.
To pass the rookie test, drivers have to complete three phases - 10 laps each at an average of 205-210 mph, 15 laps at 210-215 mph, and another 15 at 215-220 mph. The 2005 and 2006 F1 champion said that it was a bit tough at first, “but after a few laps it was fine”. In just 50 laps, he was able to complete the requirements.
After the test, Alonso then started learning the details of IndyCars on an Oval track, with the help of his Andretti Autosport team. The 2.5-mile lap has four left turns that look similar but are actually slightly different in various ways. Last year’s pole position time for the Indy 500 was 230.760 mph. Alonso was able to finish the test at 222.548 mph, so things are looking pretty good for him. Zak Brown, McLaren executive director also revealed that Alonso has already watched 25 videos of his preparations for the race including the in-car camera.
Alonso will be competing in Spain next week before he flies back to the US to begin his practice sessions for the Indy 500. Each competitor can practice for a maximum of 30 hours over 5 days before the weekend of the 20th.
Alonso requested for a retro designed Bell-manufactured helmet, where the colours red, yellow and blue contrast the black base. These colours are inspired by the current design of his F1 helmet.
Before the event, Alonso then shared a photo of the helmet he will be using in the Indy 500 on social media. While Andretti Autosport posted another photo of the racer in his white race suit with the caption “Suited and booted. It’s time to go”. Zak Brown, on the other hand, shared a video of Alonso as he begins his testing.