Fernando Alonso says he does not feel “much pressure” before Indianapolis 500 qualifying on Saturday.
The McLaren driver, who is missing the Monaco Grand Prix for next Sunday’s race, impressed with the fourth best time on ‘Fast Friday’, when drivers prepare for qualifying.
Spaniard Alonso was fifth in the list of times done without a slipstream from another car, as will be the case in qualifying on Saturday and Sunday.
His best lap was 231.827mph.
France’s Sebastien Bourdais, an ex-Formula 1 driver, was quickest on 233.116mph.
Alonso’s speed was 6mph faster than he had gone before during the week of practice at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but he said the extra pace was not noticeable when you are driving.
“You always want an extra mile to be able to go faster,” the 35-year-old said.
How does qualifying work?
Qualifying runs over two days this weekend, with Saturday defining the ‘fast nine’ drivers who can compete for pole position on Sunday.
The remaining 24 drivers also qualify again on Sunday, but only to determine the grid positions from 10th to 33rd. Qualifying pace is determined by a driver’s average speed over a four-lap run.
Alonso, who has never raced on an oval track before, said: “It is about doing a good four laps. Hopefully I will be in the first nine and wait for Sunday for the real final classification.
“Saturday is another day, but for me, in my case, it is another learning day. We’ll see what we can do but there’s not much pressure for tomorrow.”
‘We expected him to be up to speed quickly’
While the two-time F1 champion was matter-of-fact about his performance, regular Indy drivers have been impressed by him.
Japan’s Takuma Sato, a former F1 driver who moved to IndyCars seven years ago and Alonso’s team-mate at Andretti Autosport, said: “Very impressive. Kind of what we expected.
“Fernando is one of the best drivers in the world and having had this much practice time and this much support, we expected him to be up to speed very quickly.
“This was something new to him again, full [turbo] boost. But he did drive extremely well and his feedback is proper feedback.
“He is learning but he can feel [the car] in the same ways. It’s nice to work with him in the same team and it’s extra attention for the team.”
Racing legend Mario Andretti – the 1978 F1 champion, 1969 Indy 500 winner and father of Alonso’s team boss Michael Andretti – said: “He’s looking really, awfully good. I’m not surprised.”
The top five fastest times on Friday included four drivers who have experience in F1.
Besides Alonso and Bourdais, who drove for Toro Rosso in 2007-8, former BAR and Honda driver Sato was third quickest and Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya, who won five grands prix in a five-year career with Williams and McLaren, was fifth fastest.
In the list of times without a ‘tow’, Bourdais was second behind 2014 Indy winner Ryan Hunter-Reay, with former F1 driver and 2016 Indy winner Alex Rossi third from Brazilian Indy veteran Tony Kanaan and Alonso.
FlatmatesOZ.com – find flatmates, the ideal housemates for share accommodation in Melbourne, Sydney, Perth, Brisbane, Gold Coast, Adelaide, Canberra, Darwin, Hobart. Best mates for every flat and house to move you in.