Fernando Alonso’s triple crown dream will have to wait another year, the McLaren driver failing to make the grid in Sunday’s six-car shootout for a spot on the last row of the Indy 500.
McLaren and Alonso’s troubles at Indy began from the outset this week with electrical issues restricting the team’s running at the Brickyard on the opening day of practice.
Alonso’s return to the track on Wednesday ended with a heavy crash that put the Spaniard on the sidelines on the following day, leaving McLaren just one day to set-up its car for Saturday’s qualifying.
The team’s lack of preparation forced Alonso to make four runs over the course of the seven-hour session. His final and best run saw him reach 227.224mph over a four-lap average with half an hour remaining.
That put the two-time world champion in 29th position – and provisionally in the race – but he was subsequently demoted to 31st by improved late runs from Felix Rosenqvist, JR Hildebrand and Graham Rahal.
It would thus be one and done on Sunday for Alonso and the five other drivers gunning for a position on the last row of the 2019 Indy 500.
In a bid to help McLaren’s cause, the team was given a set-up sheet from Roger Penske and a damper program from Andretti Autosport to help the outfit’s engineers improve the performance of the Chevrolet-powered Dallara overnight.
However, in the early afternoon 30-minute practice session awarded to the last row runners, Alonso was called in early when sparks rushing out of the McLaren’s underside pointed to a clear set-up issue, something that did not bode well for the afternoon shootout.
A few hours later, proceedings got underway for the last six runners with Alonso third in line to qualify behind SPM’s James Hinchcliffe and Carlin’s Max Chilton.
Hinchcliffe set a benchmark four-lap average of 227.543 mph on his run which Chilton could not beat.
Alonso’s effort was remarkably smooth, in stark contrast to his previous runs, and yielded a 227.543 mph, boosting once again the team’s hopes of making the cut.
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But Dreyer and Reinbold’s Sage Karam outpaced both Hinchcliffe and Alonso with a highly impressive 227.740 mph that pushed the McLaren driver on the bubble and eliminated Chilton.
Swarmed by reporters and onlookers in the pitlane as he anxiously awaited for the final two runs to conclude, Alonso breathed a sigh of relief when Patrico O’Ward could not make it stick.
It was but a short respite for McLaren and Alonso who were finally put out of their misery by the sixth runner, the unexpected Juncos minnow outfit and driver Kyle Kaiser who clocked in with an excruciating 227.372 mph!
It was a bitter blow for the Woking-based outfit and for Alonso who had made the Indy 500 the main focus of his 2019 season.
“A difficult week, no doubts,” commented Alonso in a post on Instagram.
“We tried our best, even today with a completely different set up and approach, 4 laps flat on the throttle but we were not fast enough. It’s never easy to drive around here at 227mph +, and want more speed…
“We tried our best and we’ve been brave at times, but there were people doing better job than us. Success or disappointments only come if you accept big challenges. We accepted.
“Thanks to the massive support always here at the speedway and everyone at home. Now full focus on next targe.”
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