Alonso has McLaren seat fit ahead of Indy 500 return
Fernando Alonso has had his seat fitting in the Dallara IR18 tub he will use in this year’s Indianapolis 500, overseen by the team members who will run the #66 Chevrolet-powered entry in May.
Alonso, who raced an Andretti Autosport-prepared McLaren entry in 2017, was one of the stars of the 101st running of the Indy 500, leading 27 laps, but suffering a Honda engine blow-up with 21 laps of the race to go.
His second attempt at gaining motorsport’s unofficial triple crown – Monaco GP, 24 Hours of Le Mans and Indy 500 – will see Alonso try the new-for-2018 aerokit for the first time in superspeedway trim, and he has now had his seat fit at McLaren HQ in Woking, Surrey, UK.
Although this year’s McLaren entry will be run by current team members, Alonso’s race engineer will be Indy 500-winning Indy car veteran Andy Brown, and the squad will enjoy a technical partnership with Carlin Racing, now in its second season in IndyCar and its fifth on the U.S. open-wheel racing scene.
Liam Dance, who will be Alonso’s chief mechanic, explained to McLaren.com: “In Formula 1 the seat is built so that it can be extracted from the car with the driver in it after an accident, and it’s basically a hard carbon fiber shell. The cockpit of an IndyCar is a lot bigger, and it’s got more padding, so the seat itself is actually foam rather than carbon. Since the car is set up for going around an oval – high speeds, and all left-hand turns – the padding on the right-hand side is very important to get right, particularly around the head.
“With both [F1 and IndyCar] types of cockpit you get your pedal position and your seat belts set according to the driver’s preference and to make sure they can see out properly. Then with Fernando in the IndyCar we paid a lot of attention to optimizing the padding and giving him different options depending on how much support his head needs in the race.
“In F1 the driver will be using the brakes all the time throughout the lap, whereas in the Indy 500 they don’t touch them at all while they’re out on track - except when they’re going into the pitlane. So the main thing when setting up the pedals, apart from getting the reach right, is to make sure his foot isn’t anywhere near the brake pedal, that there’s no chance of him accidentally resting his foot on it. We spent a lot of time making sure that was right.”
Dance said Alonso’s experience ensured his requests for cockpit setup were very precise.
“With Fernando, he knows exactly what he wants,” said Dance. “He’ll tell you to the millimeter how far the steering and pedals need to be adjusted.
“Less experienced drivers might not be that sure, and you can do a seat fitting with them and they’ll say, ‘I’m happy with that.’ Then once they get out on track they might find out it isn’t really working for them - you might end up having to re-do the seat fit at the circuit between sessions.
“That can cost you important track time if you’re having to move things around. So it’s crucial to get the seat fit right first time.”
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