McLaren is looking for an opportunity to rebound on Friday after a difficult start to its Indianapolis 500 program that culminated in the team failing to turn a single lap on Thursday.
Fernando Alonso’s No.66 car spent Wednesday night in the garage being rebuilt after it sustained extensive damage in an accident just after midday, and the rebuilding process continued into Thursday when it was determined that an engine change would also be required – a job that McLaren sporting director Gil de Ferran admitted was a big ask for a group of crew members that are still getting to know one another.
“Yesterday the team reviewed the damage and we took the decision to change to the backup car,” de Ferran said.
“During that process last night, it also transpired that we had damaged the engine and that resulted in an engine change that added an additional workload. While we have a number of experienced individuals in the team, we are still relatively new as a crew. Because of this and the fact that we have deep respect for Indianapolis, we are being careful and measured in our approach and want to ensure we’re sending the best possible car out on track.”
The problem means that Alonso will go into Friday with just 96 laps under his belt – the second-least of anyone in the field other than Carlin’s Pato O’Ward, who sits at 94 laps after his own day was cut short by an accident on Thursday. The two-time world champion is also yet to register on the upper reaches of the timing screens; his fastest lap for the week sitting at a modest 225.433mph. A concern, de Ferran conceded – but not an insurmountable one.
“Not running today was a serious setback to our Indy 500 program, but all is not lost,” he said. “We should have a full day of practice and preparations for qualifying tomorrow and our goal will be to have a nice, clean day.”