INDIANAPOLIS – No one said it would be easy, but no one also thought it would be this hard for McLaren Racing and Fernando Alonso. After a rough week behind them, Saturday didn’t make matters any easier. In fact, as we head into Sunday’s final day of Indianapolis 500 Time Trials, tensions are getting bigger within the McLaren organization.
Alonso, had to make five attempts to get his No. 66 Chevrolet into the top 30 in Saturday’s opening day of Indy 500 Time Trials. Unfortunately, none of them were quick enough to lock him into one of the 30 automatic starting spots that were locked into the field when the 5:50 p.m. ET gun sounded on Saturday evening.
While Alonso confirmed that he suffered a puncture to his right rear tire during his initial run, he didn’t necessarily think that he would have been into the top 30 anyways. In fact, he started the bus and rolled over his team at McLaren Racing early and often on Saturday. Not only though did he start the bus and roll over them, he put it back into drive and drove back over them again.
“We had a rear right puncture,” Alonso said after his first run. “We’ve done quite bad and quite poor, all week, and if we add to that the (qualifying) drawing and doing the run now with this strong wind, plus half a puncture with half a tire, you know, the combination is quite bad. I’m disappointed with that and hopefully later in the day we have another shot and we can secure the top 30.”
When asked about how much the tire problem caused an issue with his run, Alonso took another shot at McLaren.
“I don’t know how much (the hole) compromised (our run). We are not very competitive anyways,” Alonso continued. “So, we don’t need any extra downside. We saw this morning we can be in the 228- to 227.5 (mph range), which is borderline for the last couple of (positions on the grid). We are struggling, so when you’re on that borderline and have the drawing we had yesterday and then the puncture, it’s quite bad.”
Alonso, didn’t stop there. This is where he started his forward desenct back over McLaren.
“I think it terms of the race, in terms of the preparation, I think the team was not totally ready for the challenge. We’ve been slow,” Alonso said. “When you see Juncos crashing yesterday and being ready at 6 (a.m.) it’s impressive.
“It is disappointing. I guess it’s more a question for McLaren. It would be nice (to be faster). These laps are the four laps flat out. you get the speed that the car has, more or less. I cannot do much more.”
That sounded reminiscent of when Danica Patrick said the famous words, “It’s not my fault,” back in 2010. Where this is different though, I don’t think anyone would blame Alonso in this situation. The team really doesn’t seem very well prepared this month. They’ve had electrcial issues nearly every day. Alonso, crashed in practice on Wednesday and the team didn’t even have the car put back together to get on track on Thursday. That, Alonso said on Thursday, was frustrating.
“It was,” Alonso said on Fast Friday about if Thursday was frustrating for him to not get out on track. “Yeah, definitely. I cannot lie to you. I was changed at 11:00. I was with the right suit, and I was supposed to be out at that time, and it was supposed to be at 1:00, then 2:30, then 4:00, and then it rained. Yeah, it was frustrating..”
As he kept qualifying on Saturday, the madder he got. He didn’t see the point of laying a bad race car on the line so many times. Now, he faces do-or-die on Sunday. One chance, four laps, in or out?
He can’t qualify five times to get it right. Sunday gives six drivers one shot to get in. Three of them will, three of them won’t.
Alonso, isn’t overly confident he will be among those three drivers fortunate to get in.
“The same as today,” Alonso said on how he will approach Sunday with only having one shot to make the race. “I think today I approached like they were the last four laps. You try to go in, and yeah, more or less you are happy with your run, but then when you see the times, it’s not enough, obviously.
“So yeah, not much we can do at the moment, you know. Tomorrow we’ll try to do these four laps clean, no mistakes, try to be flat all four, and then if it’s enough to be in the top three of the six, we’ll take it, and we will try to do a good race. If it’s not enough and we are fourth of six, it’s what we deserve. There were maybe three cars quicker than us. So nothing we can do more than that. Try to execute the runs tomorrow the best we can, and same thing with did today, stay calm, stay focused, and yeah, try to do a good job.”
While Alonso has been visibly frustrated this while week, he didn’t take it out on his fans. After he climbed out of his race car at the end of the day, knowing that after spending all day trying to make it in and he wasn’t able to, he signed autographs for fans along the pit road fence.
“Well, I didn’t sign all of them,” Alonso joked. (Laughter.)” You know, I stopped, a few, but they are everywhere. You open the motor home, they are there; you go out to the garage, they are there; you go in the bathroom, they are there. So sometimes you stop, sometimes you don’t. But yeah, they are out of the emotions and out of the environment that you are in on that moment. Maybe you jump out of the car, but for them it’s like you were walking there. They didn’t see what you were doing the last 10 minutes. So it’s not something that they can control. You try to be nice with most of them, but I understand that a lot of them, they are not happy at the end of the day. So you try to do the best way you can.”
Sunday, is a new day, but with how this month has gone for them, do you really trust they’ll get it right when they have just one shot to do so?