Fernando Alonso has returned to the cockpit of a Verizon IndyCar Series Andretti Autosport Honda today in a private test at Barber Motorsports Park. It was the first time that the Spaniard has driven an IndyCar on a road course, an occasion that he would hail as “something special” after the day’s running was over.
Alonso took to the track in a private test for Andretti, where the two-time Formula 1 world champion was able to sample the circuit in wet, intermediate and dry conditions. Details on his lap-times have not been released as of yet, but Fernando commented after the test in a brief question and answer session that he had “a good feeling” for the car and the track and that it had been “a positive day.”
“It was a good day, a fun day.” Alonso said, “I love to test new cars and to test the Indy car on a road course is something special. I’ve been lucky enough to test it in wet conditions, in intermediate conditions and in dry conditions, so overall I had a good feeling on every type of track. The weather was good for us today – a little bit of wind in the afternoon but overall a positive day.”
“I had some options to test the car on a road course after the Indy 500.” he went on to add, “We didn’t find the time but this year it’s definitely happened now and I’m happy for this. I love being behind a steering wheel, and definitely a new car, a new experience, learning a lot of things from the team, the engineers, everyone, so a happy day.”
As Fernando mentioned, this is not the first time that he has driven an IndyCar. The Spaniard was the cause of perhaps the shock of the motorsport season last year when he announced that he would be missing the Monaco Grand Prix to contest the Indianapolis 500. Fernando took to the challenge of oval racing like a duck to water, qualifying in fifth place and leading twenty-seven laps until, of course, his Honda engine failed and forced him to park up at turn one.
Since then, it has been a matter of when, rather than if, Alonso will return to try and win the final race of the “triple clown” – the legendary achievement of winning the Monaco Grand Prix, the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the Indy 500 – so far only completed by Graham Hill.
Alonso won at Le Mans on his first try earlier this year when he, along with team-mates Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima, took the victory for Toyota GAZOO Racing. With the Indy 500 the only race left on his “to-do” list, Alonso has made no secret of his intention to return, but he stated earlier this year that if he were to do so he would want to compete in a number of IndyCar races beforehand to try and be as best prepared as possible.
In the Q&A session today, Alonso was asked whether he preferred driving on an oval or on a road course, now that he had experience of both. Fernando could not quite pick one or the other.
“Probably my instinct will tell me road course because it’s what I’ve been used to doing all my life, but the Indy 500 was an amazing experience, so 50/50.” Alonso answered, “I think I love the way the car feels on a road course, but I love the way you compete on ovals, timing the tows, traffic and all the overtaking manoeuvres I think are a little bit easy on the ovals, so in terms of track action, I loved the Indy 500.”
With Fernando having announced earlier this year that he will not be racing in Formula 1 in 2019, it seems very likely that he will contest at least a handful of races in IndyCar next season. After today’s test, Andretti Autosport look to be the team that will he will race with; however, there are a number of other options believed to be on the table. Another possible deal could come for Fernando to race with Harding Racing, who would form a partnership with Andretti if rumours are to be believed.
The season finale of the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series, the Grand Prix of Sonoma, will take place on Sunday, September 16. Andretti’s Alexander Rossi currently trails Scott Dixon in the standings by twenty-nine points, with Team Penske‘s Josef Newgarden and Will Power both outside bets to steal the title for themselves.