Fernando Alonso will start the 2017 Indianapolis 500 from P5, having come through to the final nine shoot out on Sunday.
Alonso, who is missing the Monaco GP to take part in McLaren’s return to Indy next weekend, has proven to be one of the stars of the show so far. Competitive right from the off, Alonso has learned fast and claimed P7 in first qualifying to make it through to the top nine shoot out on Sunday.
Running four consecutive laps at an average speed of 231mph, getting faster on each consecutive lap for the first three, Fernando initially claimed pole position but was outstripped by Andretti stablemate Alexander Rossi, as well as former F1 rival Takuma Sato. Claiming pole position was Scott Dixon, ahead of Ed Carpenter.
Alonso had to overcome a late engine change ahead of qualifying, after Honda engineers were concerned about data they saw. With Alonso unfazed by problems like that having grown accustomed to similar issues in F1, he said the work of everyone at Andretti made his qualifying run as normal. Speaking to AP, he said: “It was stressful in the morning, with the change of the engine, that we were not sure if we were able to go out again or not. “I think the whole team was working on my car. Crews from all six cars from Andretti, they were working on my car to make it happen.”
The two time F1 World Champion also hinted that he could have done even better in qualifying, having looked briefly as though he could have been the first rookie pole sitter in over two decades: “The car was on the limit. I don’t know if it was possible to be on pole position, but definitely very close. I had an overboost problem in lap 2 out of the last corner, and it was like hitting the brakes. I nearly came to the pit lane because this qualifying run is over with this problem.”
The Indy 500 takes place on the same day as the Monaco Grand Prix, this Sunday. While Alonso is representing McLaren state-side, his normal cockpit in Monte Carlo will be filled by Jenson Button. The 2009 World Champion is currently ‘on sabbatical’ from F1, having taken his leave at the end of 2016. However, he returns for the sole event Alonso is away for, teaming up alongside Stoffel Vandoorne.