Alonso hopes Indy flop holds key to victory this year

Image: AFP
Image: AFP

Two-time Formula 1 world champion Fernando Alonso says he hopes lessons learned from failing to qualify for last year's Indianapolis 500 will give him a stronger chance to win this year.

The 38-year-old Spaniard said Wednesday, a day after securing a ride with Arrow McLaren for the 104th Indy oval classic in May, that he was unprepared for the challenge last year when he failed to qualify for the 33-car field.

"I was 100% sure that I would come back... The biggest priority for 2020 was the Indy 500," Alonso said.

"Last year, yes, we failed. Last year we were not ready for the challenge. But the sport is full of these examples. You need to fail many times to learn and maybe to achieve the success once in life. For one success there are hundreds of failures.

"Last year it was a hard one for everyone, but maybe it was a necessity to become better and to be stronger this year and to have a shot."

Alonso, who led 27 laps in 2017 in his only Indy 500 start before engine failure left him 24th, is trying to match the feat accomplished by the late Graham Hill by taking wins at the Monaco Grand Prix, Le Mans and Indy 500.

"It's no different this time, even if it's the third attempt," Alonso said. "It feels like the first one, and you feel that the month of May is going to be an important one once more for your career and for your emotions because it's quite an emotional race and all the things that are happening around that event are quite special.

"Quite a busy time now, from now on until May, but really, really excited."

Alonso, who said he might run another IndyCar race as an Indy 500 tuneup even if it was not on an oval course, found last year a humbling effort but is happy to join an experienced team, one that helped the late British racer Dan Wheldon win the 2011 Indy 500.

"Definitely last year we had not the experience that we wanted, and we struggled on the back foot beginning from March, from the first test," Alonso said.

"This year I want to go there even more compared to last year and try to delete that feeling and try to experience the event from the beginning to the end with nice momentum."

A three-car Indy 500 effort

He'll have two fellow drivers to help gather information for the team: 20-year-old Mexican Pato O'Ward and 23-year-old American Oliver Askew.

"Being a one-car team, it was a big penalty for us last year. We had a couple of issues. We had not the real ability that we wanted in the first couple of tests, and obviously we didn't have much information," Alonso said.

"This year with three cars, even if you have a bad day, you're still learning a lot of things from the other two cars. So I think that will be a good advantage."

After Honda officials nixed a possible effort with Andretti Autosport, Alonso is happy to be able to excite McLaren fans again.

"I have this sense of loyalty to McLaren and to our fans that last year they had high hopes, as we have, and didn't show up on the big weekend," he said. "I think we have this kind of, not obligation, but feeling that we need to give something back and this year we will go for it."

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