Three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Dario Franchitti admitted he was amazed by the performance of Fernando Alonso around the fabled 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway when the Spaniard completed his Rookie Orientation Programme last week.
Speaking at McLaren’s headquarters ahead of the team’s return to IMS in conjunction with Alonso and Andretti Autosport in 2017, Franchitti said that the two-time Formula 1 World Champion got up to speed very quickly, which is especially difficult for someone who has only ever raced on road and street courses in his career so far.
“I was amazed, I thought he got up to speed incredibly quickly,” said Franchitti. “I sat and watched the whole rookie test and I thought he got up to speed well, did a great job. To drive an oval is a very unusual thing for a road course driver who has grown up driving on road and street courses, and Indianapolis is probably even more so a law unto itself.
“The good news is, there’s a lot of days of practice. If it rains, that could change things a little bit, but ever lap Fernando’s going to get is going to be helpful.”
Franchitti believes having team-mates at Indianapolis can only be a good thing for Alonso, with the Scot feeling that the Spaniard will be surprised to the level of help his team-mates will give him compared to what he is used to in Formula 1.
Alonso will have Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti, Takuma Sato and Alexander Rossi as team-mates as well as fellow rookie Jack Harvey in a six-car Andretti Autosport assault on the Indy 500.
“A plus point is that he’s got great team-mates,” said Franchitti. “They’re going to help him, which I think he will find quite unusual.
“You all want to beat your team-mates, but you all work together to beat the opposition because the cars are essentially the same and it’s how your team figure out the small differences that can make the difference between success and failure.”