Beloved two-time Formula 1 champion Fernando Alonso became the first person to crash out in practice for this year’s Indianapolis 500, reports Racer. Alonso was unhurt, although it’s certainly a bummer to be the first in this regard.
The crash happened with 43 minutes to go in the session and caused a full-course yellow for the rest of the field. Alonso was running in sixth place in his No. 66 Arrow McLaren SP-Chevrolet IndyCar at the time after running a lap with an average speed of 224.363 mph.
Alonso made the mistake of clipping the inside concrete at Turn 4, sending his car into the wall at the exit of the turn. The car then pinballed into pit lane, stopping just short of the DragonSpeed team’s pit box. The AMR Safety Team quickly arrived on the scene thanks to the crash’s proximity to pit lane, at which point Alonso was able to get out of the car on his own.
“You lose the car, you lose the grip of the car, and this place, the walls are coming very close,” Alonso said following his release from the infield care center, as quoted by Racer. “Unfortunately, it happened again. We’ll learn from this. Nothing we can do now. Tomorrow, we’ll start again.”
Weirdly, this is a near-repeat of last year, where he also crashed out during the second day of Indy 500 practice. That crash was at Turn 3 but like this year’s, it was after Alonso posted an average lap speed of just over 224 mph.
For the past few years, so many fans have had high hopes for Alonso’s Indy 500 runs that get crushed somewhere along the way. In 2017, Alonso led the race for 27 laps before his McLaren/Andretti combo-effort car’s Honda engine failed-an unfortunate callback to all of the Honda engine failures Alonso dealt with racing for McLaren in Formula 1.
For his second Indy 500 attempt in 2019, Alonso’s McLaren Racing Chevrolet was eliminated before the race even started after a series of legendary screw-ups on McLaren’s part. First, McLaren wanted to use their own steering wheel, which arrived late for Alonso’s first test of the car at Texas Motor Speedway, costing Alonso half a day of crucial practice time. Then a back-up car McLaren purchased from then-partner Carlin didn’t arrive in the right shade of orange. After Alonso crashed during last year’s Indy 500 practice, they needed that back-up car, which still wasn’t finished with its papaya orange re-paint. This cost them two days of practice, which led to Alonso’s eventual failure to qualify for the 2019 Indy 500.
McLaren is once again working with a long-running IndyCar team, Arrow, who can hopefully point Alonso in the right direction. The head of McLaren’s 2019 IndyCar effort, Bob Fernley, was fired just hours after Alonso failed to qualify that year, per the Associated Press.
While it’s surprising that Alonso still even returns McLaren’s calls after last year, here’s hoping that the third time’s a charm and we can see this talented driver have a fighting chance at finishing the race again.
Chip Ganassi racer Scott Dixon ultimately went fastest during the day’s practice, posting an incredible speed of 226.102 mph. According to Jalopnik, this year’s Indy 500 is expected to have the fastest speeds since 1996. You can see the full day’s results on Autosport. Alonso’s lap times were still good enough to put him in eighth place for the day.