CONCORD, N.C. — Can Fernando Alonso win the Indianapolis 500?
In the hours following the announcement that Andretti Autosport would team with McLaren and Honda to field a car for the two-time Formula One world champion for the 101st running of the Indianapolis 500, we heard from many friends and colleagues regarding Alonso’s intentions.
Most gave the 35-year-old Spaniard no chance of winning at Indianapolis. That certainly seems short-sighted. Has everyone already forgotten the 100th Indianapolis 500? Few gave rookie driver Alexander Rossi any chance of winning in his first Indy 500. But pit strategy put Rossi in position to win and he had the skill to deliver on Bryan Herta’s daring call.
And which team was Rossi driving for? Andretti Autosport, of course.
Yes, Alonso has never driven an Indy car or raced on an oval. But he’s one of the most talented drivers in the world. While his McLaren team is currently lacking serious performance from its Honda-powered Formula One cars, Alonso has won two F-1 titles and 32 Formula One races.
That’s considerably more high-pressure racing experience than Rossi had heading into last year, and more than most of the rookies who have attempted the Indianapolis 500. And he’ll have Honda’s technical support and Andretti Autosport, which also will field cars for Indianapolis 500 winners Ryan Hunter-Reay and Rossi, as well as Jack Harvey, Marco Andretti and Takuma Sato.
That’s a lot of knowledge and combined track time during the two weeks leading up to The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.
Alonso is skipping the Grand Prix of Monaco, one of the most prestigious races on the Formula One schedule, to fulfill his dream of racing at Indianapolis.
In reality he has a better chance of winning at Indianapolis than Monaco — and he knows it.
“Monaco is the biggest race of the calendar in Formula One and the event is amazing; not only the race on Sunday but the whole weekend is amazing. The best result that we achieved was last year, fifth,” Alonso said. “Thinking that we are a little bit less competitive this year, you know and maybe you had a possibility to do another top five or seven or six or wherever, it’s great to have some points, but I’ve won a couple of times there already and am two times world champion, so to have fifth, seventh or ninth in Monaco will not change my life.
“In a way, it’s impossible to compare … to have the minimum chance to win the Indy 500 compared to a fifth or sixth or seventh in Monaco,” Alonso added. “It’s much bigger, the other possibility.”