The Indianapolis 500 have gained another world champion to its grid with double Formula 1 world champion Fernando Alonso joining Andretti Autosport with Mclaren. This comes with Alonso and Mclaren confirming that he will, in fact, miss the Monaco Grand Prix that takes place on the same day.
Alonso’s chances to win as a rookie are very high with Andretti Autosport having won the Indy 500 four times in the last twelve years including a rookie winning just last year with Alexander Rossi winning for the team Alonso will be driving for.
Alonso won’t be the only driver who has former Formula One experience in the Indianapolis 500 with former Marussia-Manor drivers Max Chilton and Alexander Rossi competing along with ex-Toro Rosso driver and current IndyCar points leader Sebastien Bourdais also racing.
“I’m immensely excited that I’ll be racing in this year’s Indy 500, with McLaren, Honda and Andretti Autosport. The Indy 500 is one of the most famous races on the global motorsport calendar, rivalled only by the Le Mans 24 Hours and the Monaco Grand Prix, and it’s, of course, a regret of mine that I won’t be able to race at Monaco this year. But Monaco will be the only 2017 Grand Prix I’ll be missing, and I’ll be back in the cockpit of the McLaren-Honda MCL32 for the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal in early June” said Alonso on his move to Andretti Autosport for the Indianapolis 500.
“I’ve never raced an IndyCar car before, and neither have I ever driven on a super-speedway, but I’m confident that I’ll get to grips with it fast. I’ve watched a lot of IndyCar action on TV and online, and it’s clear that great precision is required to race in close proximity with other cars on the far side of 220mph. I realise I’ll be on a steep learning curve, but I’ll be flying to Indianapolis from Barcelona immediately after the Spanish Grand Prix, practising our McLaren-Honda-Andretti car at Indy from May 15th onwards, hopefully clocking up a large number of miles every day, and I know how good the Andretti Autosport guys are. I’ll be proud to race with them, and I intend to mine their knowledge and expertise for as much info as I possibly can” Alonso added on the task facing him when getting into the cockpit of the IndyCar.
“I’ve won the Monaco Grand Prix twice, and it’s one of my ambitions to win the Triple Crown (Monaco Grand Prix, the Indianapolis 500 and the Le Mans 24 Hours), which has been achieved by only one driver in the history of motorsport: Graham Hill. It’s a tough challenge, but I’m up for it. I don’t know when I’m going to race at Le Mans, but one day I intend to. I’m only 35: I’ve got plenty of time for that” said Alonso on winning the triple crown of motorsport.
Executive Director of Mclaren American Zak Brown commented: “As an American, albeit one who fell in love with Formula 1 at a very young age, I’ve always regarded the Indy 500 as a fantastic motor race”.
Also crediting Honda on the move as well “Equally, this project wouldn’t have been possible without Honda’s support and encouragement. And our car, the McLaren-Honda Andretti will be decked out in the papaya orange livery made famous by our founder Bruce McLaren, and in which Johnny Rutherford drove McLaren IndyCars to Indy 500 victory in both 1974 and 1976”.
Michael Andretti the team owner who will field Alonso’s car said “It’s a great honour to partner with McLaren for the 101st running of the Indianapolis 500 and to bring Fernando into one of our Andretti Autosport Hondas. I want to thank Zak [Brown], Honda and McLaren for this tremendous opportunity. We’ve been working very closely in the planning of this new partnership and I believe we’ve laid the foundation for a successful month of May. We’re looking forward to giving Fernando an effort in reaching one of his biggest career goals of winning the Indy 500.
“Fernando’s lack of experience on superspeedways is not of concern to me. I do believe that the Indianapolis 500 is one of the best places for a rookie to start because there is the opportunity for so much practice time on the track – and, as we have demonstrated, it can be won by a rookie. Fernando is a great talent and I have full confidence that he will represent very strongly for McLaren, Honda and Andretti Autosport”.
There has been no confirmed replacement for Alonso for Monaco but Jenson Button is the first name that comes to mind given that he still has a written contract with the team. McLaren-Honda has said that a replacement will be named soon, however.
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