INDIANAPOLIS — Last year, Fernando Alonso’s name was consistently found at the bottom of the speed charts here at Indy. He wound up missing the show for the 103rd Running of the Indianapolis 500 as a result of a dysfunctional team effort from the McLaren outfit. That’s not an insult. That’s their words actually. They were not happy with how everything transpired here in 2019.
Alonso, vowed to not give up. He didn’t want to end his NTT IndyCar Series days with a failure. So, back he came for another try.
This year, he and McLaren returned with a partnership with Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. They did it right this time around. From not having a steering wheel at a test last year, to having a wrong shade of color on the car, to having the setup put on his car in metric, not standard units that were given to them, anything would be better in 2020.
So, that led to a stronger opening day out of the gates for the popular Spaniard, as he wound up being the fastest Chevrolet driver with a top speed of 223.238 mph in his No. 66 Chevrolet. That was good enough for fifth quick.
“I think it’s very different this year with the Aeroscreen,” said Alonso of Wednesday’s practice. “The way the car behaves and you have to adapt a little bit. So we are just chasing the setup a little bit but yeah, the speed is there on the car.
“You know that there’s going to be a reasonable pace. I think the mood is going to be more relaxed. You don’t need to overstress too much because eventually you will be in a more or less competitive place. So I’m happy.”
Alonso, also said on Tuesday that he’s vastly more comfortable this year and says that despite him having just one year under his belt and his two teammates being rookies, he’s happy with how they’ve looked in 2020 too.
“I was very impressed definitely,” Alonso said of seeing what his two teammates this month have done this season so far. “I think I was watching all the races from TV with attention because I knew that the test day we had in April was canceled. The simulator days that we had programmed were canceled. I knew it was very limited time for me on the car before the 500. I wanted to know how the team was performing every weekend.
“I mean, was very impressive what both did. I remember the Indy GP, Oliver was super fast, on pole. Then Pato with the points he achieved every Sunday. Probably even more that skip away in some unlucky moments. I knew that they are very talented, very brave.
“Is going to be a huge boost for the team to have these two young drivers, talented drivers, bringing fresh ideas, fresh in terms of car performance, and I’m looking forward to work with everybody.”
With that said, he noted on Tuesday too that they need to take it step by step in practice this week. If they are going to get better as the time goes on here this month, watch out.
“We know there are a lot of things to do from our side,” continued Alonso. “We will miss some experience. All three drivers, we’re rookies for the 500. We need to rely and we need to work very close to the team and learn every day, make it step by step, concentrate a little bit more on the race this year.
“Qualifying, we are already 33 cars. Maybe that eases the pressure and stress on the first couple of days, and we can concentrate on race day.
“I think it’s going to be things that we need to learn within days, in the practice, into qualifying, and next week.”
Wednesday, showed promise.
“Today was good,” Alonso continued. “I think we had the day that we wanted, which was a clean day with no issues and trouble-free.
“In the morning, we got up to speed with the refresher, and in the afternoon we cut it a bit short to work on the car. We may have potentially missed one run in traffic, but it’s nothing we can’t make up tomorrow.
“We are working step by step, improving the car a little bit each time. We are working on the balance and getting used to the speed again, more in my case than the team. The team is was maybe more ready than me on this first day. We will grow together and got some good mileage today. We have a good understanding of the car and will hopefully have a good setup ready to go tomorrow.”