Fernando Alonso said he was more driven than ever to come back to Indianapolis after last May’s shocking DNQ.
Speaking from his home in Spain on a Wednesday morning teleconference 24 hours after he was officially confirmed at Arrow McLaren SP for the 2020 Indy 500, Alonso sounded stoked for his third appearance at IMS.
“Last year we failed and were not ready for the challenge but the sport is full of these examples,” said the two-time F1 champion, who failed to qualify in 2019 because the one-off McLaren effort was a disaster that had nothing to do with him. “You need to fail many times to learn and maybe to achieve the success once in life.
“But I was 100 percent sure that I would come back. Before, during and after, that race is just magic.”
After his resplendent rookie run for Andretti Autosport in 2017 when he qualified fifth fastest, led 27 laps and had a real shot at winning, last year was a nightmare. It was a one-car, Indy-only effort with a group that turned out to be totally unprepared.
This year he’ll have one of IndyCar’s top engineers in Craig Hampson, an experienced team that won the pole at Indianapolis in 2016 and a couple of hungry rookie teammates.
“I think this year having the full championship on the shoulders, especially not being a new team — it’s a team that’s run for many years in IndyCar and it was running competitively, and now has McLaren helping them on the most important areas of performance,” he reasoned.
“They had a good test at COTA and there are clearly signs, in a competitive way, that things will be very different than last year.”
Asked about his 23- and 20-year-old teammates, the 38-year-old veteran replied: “We have different characteristics. I think Oliver (Askew) has tremendous talent that will help to discover things and Pato (O’Ward) is a very brave guy and talented with no fears. I have the experience of many years of racing but not oval racing. So I think we are lacking maybe some experience (on ovals).
“But I think we need to help each other and work together. To work with Sam (Schmidt), Craig and Gil de Ferran, they all have experience in the car and they have won many things there. I think altogether and pushing in the same direction, we should be quite a good team.”
Having been on the sidelines of late, other than his run in the Dakar rally, Alonso made it clear he’d like to do more than the Indy open test on April 30 but wasn’t sure it could happen.
“Look, there are possibilities,” he replied when asked if he would be running the Indy GP. “I think it’s not up to me 100 percent. I think more tests, more simulator, more races — whatever I do before the Indy 500 can only be beneficial to my preparation.
“But there are other things that may compromise the Indy 500 or setup or building of everything, so I don’t want to make any problem for that preparation. These are things that we will talk to the team about.”