Fernando Alonso looked right at home driving around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday but was unfortunately the recipient of a Honda engine failure with just twenty-one laps to go.
The Spaniard had led twenty-seven laps of his first Indianapolis 500 and was in contention for a top ten result, possibly even better, but for his engine failure, which was the third of the afternoon for Honda after Ryan Hunter-Reay and Charlie Kimball.
Alonso came to Indianapolis wanting to prove to himself if he could match the best of the Verizon IndyCar Series field, and by leading the race, he felt that he achieved this with his McLaren Honda Andretti team.
“I’m disappointed not to finish the race because obviously, every race you compete in, you want to be at the chequered flag,” said Alonso. “Today that was not possible.
“It was a great experience, the last two weeks. I came here basically to prove myself, to challenge myself. I know that I can be as quick as anyone in an F1 car. I didn’t know if I can be as quick as anyone in an IndyCar.”
Seeing his number on top of the pylon gave Alonso a thrill, and he admitted he wanted a picture of that for his home, but more than that, he admitted his pride to have participated in the Indianapolis 500.
“It was nice to have this competitive feeling, even leading the Indy 500, you know,” said Alonso. “One lap you put on the lead there, it was already a nice feeling. I was passing, watching the tower, saw the 29 on top of it. I was thinking at that moment if Zak (Brown) or someone from the team was taking a picture, because I want that picture at home.
“Thanks to IndyCar, amazing experience. Thanks to Indianapolis. Thanks to the fans. I felt at home. I’m not American, but I felt really proud to race here.”
Alonso admitted he was cheering on team-mate Takuma Sato in the closing laps as he closed on the victory, and he praised the Japanese racer for giving him some assistance during the month of May.
“Congratulations to Sato San, to Andretti,” said Alonso. “We have been sharing the last two weeks all the meetings in the morning, the meetings in the afternoon. Takuma was a lot of help, coming from F1.
“The last two laps I was on my knees really pushing Sato. Extremely happy for the final result.”