Alonso admits he’s worried about qualifying for Indy 500
Fernando Alonso recognizes that McLaren-Chevrolet still have a fight on their hands to make the field for the 103rd Running of the Indianapolis 500.
After missing most of Wednesday’s running and all of Thursday, the two-time Formula 1 champion had enough tire sets to turn more laps than all but one of his 35 rivals on Fast Friday, when the BorgWarner turbo boost is turned up to 1.4-bar, in preparation for the weekend of qualifying.
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However, given that he had only turned 96 laps of the 2.5-mile oval over the previous three days, Alonso wasn’t as trimmed out as several rivals ending the day 24th overall and 30th in the rankings of laps turned without a tow. His fastest no-tow speed was 226.869mph, compared with the fastest no-tow lap of the day, a 230.106 by Ed Jones of Ed Carpenter Racing-Chevrolet.
Asked if he was worried about his qualifying prospets, he responded: “I am, yes. I think it's the same for everyone.
“Tomorrow, I think the pick-up order [initial qualifying run order is set by draw] and when you will do the run is going to be a big factor if it's a hot day. So yeah, if we are in the wrong moment of the day, which it seems that the luck will put us this week… There are no guarantees.”
Nonetheless, the 32-time Formula 1 race winner was upbeat about how much McLaren had accomplished over the course of the seven-hour practice which lost half an hour to Kyle Kaiser’s accident and 1hr20min to a yellow for bad weather.
“It was a positive day for us, and we were able to put the car on track and try different directions on the setup and learn a little bit about the track and the day. Obviously the boost was up today, so the speeds were higher, and it was more a quali preparation than race setups.
“But we had a lot of new tires from the last couple of days so we were able to do a lot of runs, and hopefully that information will give us tomorrow a little bit of confidence into qualifying.
“It was more about the setup of the car, not necessarily on the trimming or on the aerodynamic side. Also sometimes you can solve all the problems on the mechanical side and once you are happy with the car, maybe you start trimming a little bit more.
“We worked a lot on the mechanical grip, and we found a better direction through the day than when we started. So yeah, we need to look through the data tonight and hopefully have an even better starting point tomorrow.”
Regarding the basic characteristics of the current breed of IndyCar compared with the manufacturer aerokit-equipped car he raced here two years ago - and the series’ future technical direction – Alonso said he shouldn’t pass judgment.
“I didn't have enough laps probably to really comment on this, especially in traffic,” he said. “I think today didn't feel too bad compared to 2017 Fast Friday, let's say. Qualifying, I think the cars are light in general, and the downforce you feel always low, with whatever package you put on the car.
“I think in traffic, what I heard is that it's much more challenging now than 2017, but so as long as it's the same for everyone, it makes a good show. If the direction is this one, that IndyCar is taking for the future – more horsepower or whatever – maybe you'll see a better show.
“As long as you can follow someone, which I think is quite important at the end of the day because you can remove the downforce but you cannot follow closely, you will miss the action and miss the overtaking in the race.
“So you need to be able to follow to a certain point to have a good show. So hopefully they take that into account.”
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