By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
Fernando Alonso’s quest for racing’s Triple Crown began on a positive note, ending up fifth fastest (223.238 mph) during Opening Day practice at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Wednesday.
While both full-time Arrow McLaren SP teammates Pato O’Ward (28th fastest) and Oliver Askew (31st) were getting their foot in the door at the 2.5-mile circuit, the two-time Formula 1 champion wasted no time setting a flying lap in his No. 66 Ruoff Mortgage Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet.
“Today was good,” said Alonso, who ran 29 main practice laps. “I think we had the day that we wanted, which was a clean day with no issues and trouble-free.”
Staying out of trouble certainly flattered McLaren Racing Sporting Director Gil de Ferran, who was pleased with Alonso’s afternoon.
“Thankfully, it was a fairly uneventful day, with not much to report,” de Ferran exclaimed. “It was the first day back in a single-seater for over one year for Fernando and, as usual, it went smoothly. It was also the first day for the crew of the No. 66 Ruoff Mortgage Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet all together and there are definitely some things we can improve on.”
Alonso began his day partaking in the 11-car Rookie/Refresher Orientation Practice where he navigated around IMS 47 times in the session, ending up fourth fastest at 219.052 mph. Good enough to be the second fastest refresher competitor as three-time Indianapolis 500 champion Helio Castroneves was one spot ahead of him at 219.274 mph.
Once getting the OK to continue his day, the 39-year-old Spaniard assured that speed won’t be a major concern as he was the leader of the Bowtie Brigade on a day that was dominated by Honda, notably the Andretti Autosport camp.
“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,” Alonso said.
“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.”
The second day of practice will take place on Thursday from 11:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Gold.