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Fernando Alonso begins journey from F1 to Indy 500 with first test today

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Fernando Alonso begins journey from F1 to Indy 500 with first test today
May 3, 2017, 12:25 PM

[Updated] Two-time Formula 1 champion Fernando Alonso tested an IndyCar for the first time today with Andretti Autosport on the 2.

[Updated] Two-time Formula 1 champion Fernando Alonso tested an IndyCar for the first time today with Andretti Autosport on the 2.5 mile Indianapolis oval.

Team owner Michael Andretti's son, Marco, set-up and tested the car for a few laps before handing it over to Alonso, who completed the 'Rookie Orientation Programme': 10 laps at 205-210mph, 15 laps at 210-215mph, and 15 laps at over 215mph.

The program is an extra practice session for first-time entrants to the Indy 500 which also serves as an assessment for car control and consistency. Today's test is an attempt to pass that test, which the other entrants will take on May 15.

Alonso described his first run on an oval as "fun", but added:

"Now hopefully we can put some laps and start feeling a little bit of the car because at the moment the car is driving itself, I am not driving the car," said Alonso afterwards.

"I do feel more comfortable [going faster], not because of the speed, but because of the laps. You are already 30 laps in or 40 laps in, so you are able to fine tune and read the lines and up shift, down shift, learn which gear to use in which corner."

Last year, former Marussia F1 driver Max Chilton and Manor reserve driver Alexander Rossi passed the program. Rossi was the 2016 Indy 500 winner for Andretti Autosport, a rookie at the time.

Former F1 drivers who have won the Indy 500 also include Juan Pablo Montoya in 2000 and 2015, Jacques Villeneuve in 1995, Emerson Fittipaldi in 1989 and 1993 and Graham Hill in 1966 among others.

Nigel Mansell, 1992 F1 Drivers' champion, moved to CART - the series now merged into IndyCar - in 1993 and won the series in his debut year. He became the only person ever to hold both titles simultaneously.

"In all my time in IndyCars, I never learned to feel comfortable on ovals despite winning four times on them and once winning a 500-mile race," wrote Mansell in his 1996 autobiography.

"On ovals you have to commit yourself going into corners at 200mph plus. You brake very gingerly, if at all, and you try to carry as much speed as you can around the corner.

"All the time you know that if anything goes wrong, whether it be a tyre going down, a suspension problem or just having a little bit of oversteer, you’re going to hit the concrete wall on the outside of the track and have a monumental accident.

"It’s actually quite frightening. Some of the corners are really dangerous."

IndyCar will be live-streaming the test on Youtube. Watch it here at 14.30pm GMT. There is a small chance that wet weather could postpone today's practice.

Rookie Orientation passed

Alonso passed all three phases of the ROP within 50 laps as he worked his way up from a 190mph lap to a top speed of 219.6mph. Andretti set the car up to his own liking to provide a reference point and de-briefed the F1 driver thoroughly which let Alonso make set-up adjustments later as he pleased.

He changed his line throughout the 50 laps to get a feel of driving through race-traffic, and then Alonso gradually worked his way up to using the full width of the track, inching closer and closer to the outside wall.

"It was fun, it was fun. I think it's a good way to start, to build speed. It was probably a little bit difficult at the beginning to reach the minimum, but then on the next stages it felt good," he said.

"Now, hopefully we can put in some laps and start feeling a little bit of the car because at the moment the car is driving itself but I'm not driving the car.

"I do feel more comfortable, not because of speed, just because of the laps. You're already [driving] with 30 or 40 laps in the pocket so you are able to fine tune the lines a little bit, the upshifts and downshifts and which gear to use in the corner."

When asked whether the simulator practice he did this weekend and before the rookie test was useful, Alonso said, "Yeah I think the feeling in the simulator is quite realistic and you have the first touch, the first impression of how it's going to be.

"But in the end the real car is just a unique feeling so when you have to go flat out in the corner it's not the same in the simulator as the real car. So far it's good, the team is incredibly helpful. Running alone is quite OK.

"We will see later in the next weeks. As I said, it was, so far, a good experience but now the real deal starts."

Livery revealed

The Andretti Autosport Honda is painted in orange, a clear homage to three-time Indy 500 champion Johnny Rutherford's 1974 McLaren M16C. The front-wing also features McLaren's logo with Alonso's name written on the side in cursive letters.

Rutherford was co-presenting the live-stream and said, "I think he'll remember this for the rest of his life.

"You don't want to go out there and set the world on fire - you want to sneak up on it - if you try to do it all at once, you're in trouble."

 

JA will be updating this post with the latest news and analysis from Alonso's Indy 500 practice. Have your say on his move from F1 to IndyCar in the comments section below or on Facebook.

 
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Series Formula 1 , IndyCar
Drivers Fernando Alonso Shop Now