INDYCAR SERIES

FERNANDO ALONSO PASSES INDIANAPOLIS 500 ROOKIE TEST

Two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso needed about an hour of track time today to pass the Indianapolis 500 Rookie Orientation Program, clearing the way for him to compete in the 101st Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil.

“It was fun,” Alonso said after making quick work of the three phases of ROP in just 51 laps in his No. 29 McLaren-Honda-Andretti car. “At this moment, everything looks good. Now it’s time to start the real thing.”

Andretti Autosport teammate Marco Andretti shook down the car, which is painted in classic Team McLaren papaya orange, before Alonso did 10 laps at 205-210 mph, 15 laps at 210-215 mph and 15 laps at 215-plus mph. McLaren is returning to the Indy 500 on May 28 for the first time in 38 years.

Practice for the Indianapolis 500 begins May 15 with qualifying on May 20-21, so the 35-year-old Spaniard has a lot to learn in a short time. He’s still had to juggle F1 commitments, which has meant an overabundance of travel. Alonso was unable to start Sunday’s Russian Grand Prix due to engine issues and will compete in the Spanish Grand Prix next week.

Alonso ranks sixth on F1’s all-time win list with 32 victories and celebrated world championships in 2005 and 2006, but hasn’t won a race since 2013 and his interest in enhancing his racing resume has brought him to Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

A day after preparing in a racing simulator, Alonso said his confidence grew with each passing lap. By day’s end, he had completed 110 laps with a top speed of 222.548 mph.

“I think it’s a good way to start, to build speed,” he said. “It was difficult at (the) beginning to reach the minimum speed. The next stages felt good, not because of the speed but because of the laps. You’re able to fine-tune the lines; upshift, downshift, which gears to use in the corner.

“The simulator is quite realistic. You have the first impression of how it’s going to be. But the real car is a unique feeling. When you have to go flat out in the corner, it’s not the same in the simulator as in the real car.”

Andretti Autosport CEO Michael Andretti, who will field six cars in the race including defending champion Alexander Rossi, liked what he saw from Alonso’s initial experience.

“He gets it,” Andretti said. “He’s one of the best in the world and you can see why. He had a little bit of understeer in that run and he adjusted his line because of the understeer. He’s the real deal. I think he’s going to be really strong this month.”

Three generations of Andretti racers – Mario, Michael and Marco – as well as Rossi and 2003 Indy 500 winner Gil de Ferran were among those giving Alonso advice. Mario won the 1969 Indy 500, Michael has celebrated four Indy 500 victories as an owner in addition to leading the most laps (431) without winning as a driver and Marco was a rookie runner-up in 2006 and is in his 12th season as a Verizon IndyCar Series regular.

“The team has been amazingly helpful,” Alonso said. “Running alone is quite OK. We’ll see in the next weeks. So far a good experience. Now is the real deal.”

Marco Andretti said cooler track conditions, with ambient temperatures in the low 50s, combined with Alonso being the only driver on track provided an ideal setting for the initiation. Alonso kept churning out laps amid a threat of afternoon showers as darker clouds drifted over the speedway.

“With this level of downforce, this is like race downforce, when there’s no traffic and you’re by yourself, it’s just stuck,” Marco Andretti said. “The front and rear are stuck right now, which is what you want for the first run.”
And what of sorting out the input from so many voices?

“He’ll have to learn by fire from a lot of it,” Marco said. “But he’s asking the right questions.

“He’ll be fine. He’s a race car driver. He’ll leave today pretty confident.”

FORMULA 1

CLARK IS WRONG AND NASIR IS RIGHT! BOTTAS TAKES HIS FIRST FORMULA 1 VICTORY FENDING OFF VETTEL, LCH MANAGES FOURTH.

Bottas crossed the line just 0.617 seconds ahead of Vettel’s Ferrari with Kimi Raikkonen taking his first podium of the season with third.

Bottas made a blistering start from third on the grid, benefiting from a slow-starting Raikkonen and then passing Vettel on the run to Turn 2 to take the lead.

The race was then neutralised shortly after when the safety car was deployed following a collision between Romain Grosjean and Jolyon Palmer at Turn 2.

At the restart, Bottas put the hammer down and gradually went about building up a lead over Vettel that grew to just over four seconds.

Bottas caught traffic ahead of the pitstops, allowing Vettel to cut the deficit to 2.5s before Mercedes called Bottas in at the end of lap 27 of 52 to swap ultra-softs for super-softs.

Vettel stayed out for an extra seven laps, with his pace remaining competitive, and rejoined just over four seconds adrift of Bottas following his stop for the super-softs.

Championship leader Vettel slowly chipped away at that deficit, getting the gap down to just under a second at one stage to set up a grandstand finish.

But Bottas, who asked for “less talking” on the team radio in the closing laps, kept his composure to fend off Vettel and take his first victory in his 81st F1 start.

Hamilton had a frustrating afternoon, making a good start initially but struggling in the second phase of acceleration as he stayed in fourth.

 

FORMULA 1

THE FINGER IS BACK! FIRST FERRARI FRONT ROW SINCE LA FRANCE IN 08

Vettel, who heads Hamilton by seven points in the title race, ended Mercedes’ streak of 18 consecutive poles with a brilliant final lap following a nail-biting session here at the Sochi Autodrom.

Vettel heads an all-Ferrari front row with Kimi Raikkonen second on the grid and Valtteri Bottas third. Hamilton, mysteriously off-colour for much of the weekend here, was more than half a second behind Vettel, who celebrated his pole in raucous fashion over the team radio.

The last time Vettel started from pole was at the Singapore Grand Prix back in 2015, but his and Ferrari’s pace in Russia so far this weekend would appear to point towards a changing of the guard, with Hamilton’s Mercedes team having dominated the sport for the past three seasons.

Indeed Mercedes have a great record in these parts having won all of the three grands prix staged here while leading every lap. But they, and in particular Hamilton, have struggled for form, with Ferrari now only cementing their status as real challengers for both the drivers’ and constructors’ crown.

Hamilton was nearly six tenths of a second behind Vettel, and almost half-a-second down on Bottas. His sluggish pace was greeted by crossed arms from Toto Wolff and Niki Lauda in the Mercedes garage, with the latter puffing out his cheeks and shaking his head.

For Vettel he was jubilant to seal his 47th career pole.

“It is a very good result and I am sure everyone is happy and very proud,” he said.

“The car was phenomenal this afternoon and it was a real pleasure to take the car around on low fuel and drive it to the limit.”

FORMULA 1

Renault to celebrate the 40th anniversary of its involvement in Formula 1 at Classic Days 2017

As part of its celebrations to mark the 40th anniversary of its involvement in Formula 1, Renault will be presenting a retrospective of its prestigious past in grand prix racing with a display of 11 F1 cars at Classic Days 2017 (Magny-Cours, France).

The programme at the French circuit includes track runs by the RS01 and the RE40 in the hands of Jean-Pierre Jabouille and Alain Serpaggi respectively.

The Classic Days weekend has become a not-to-miss gathering for fans of vintage, classic and collectors’ cars. This year’s event will feature a display of more than 1,750 vehicles dating from 1899 until the current day.

Classic Days 2017 takes place at Magny-Cours, France, on the weekend of April 29-30.
About the RS01:

The 1977 British Grand Prix at Silverstone saw Renault take the bold step of making its F1 debut with a car powered by a 1.5-litre turbocharged engine, whereas rival teams were still racing with the alternative normally-aspirated three-litre powerplants also permitted by the regulations. Turbocharging soon became the default option for the entire grid, however, proving the shrewdness of Renault’s choice…

About the RE40:

The RE40 took Renault painfully close to winning its maiden Constructors’ title.
Renault had been edging its way up the Formula 1 World Championship pecking order since 1980. After a halting start to the 1983 championship, Alain Prost scored a superb win at the French Grand Prix, putting an end once and for all to the debate about the supremacy of turbocharged engines which Renault had pioneered in 1975. Yet although the 1983 campaign turned out to be Renault’s most successful of the so-called turbo era, it was forced to settle for second place in the Constructors’ standings.

BRITISH F3

TRIPLE PLAY BY EA

Three wins, three fastest laps. Sizzling start to the season by Enaam Ahmed.

The 2017 BRDC British Formula 3 season got underway at Oulton Park, in the beautiful lush green Cheshire countryside. All three races of the weekend were held on Monday, April 17, following damage to safety barrier during the Mini Challenge race earlier in the weekend.

Young American racer from Baltimore Cameron Das, the 2016 US Formula 4 Champion, grabbed the pole for the first race of the season.

Das had a ‘Lewis from 2016-season moment’ and was unable to lead the race due to wheel spin. His Carlin teammate Enaam Ahmed took up the charge to hunt down race leader Toby Sowery. With less than five minutes remaining, Enaam was side-by-side with Toby as they approached Cascades, a lock-up and a trip through the gravel trap by Toby handed the lead and victory to Enaam.

The GP2-style reverse grid put Enaam eighth on the grid for the second race. Carnage on the opening lap saw several casualties, including Sowery. A spin by pole man and race leader Omar Ismail elevated Enaam to second place before the race was red flagged.

He made a quick getaway at the restart and took victory again, this time over teammate James Pull. Enaam’s fastest lap gave him pole for the third and final race of the opening round, which he won with ease, and shared the podium with his Carlin teammates, Das was second and Pull third.

An elated Enaam said after the race, “I didn’t think it was really possible to win three races in a weekend, but it is a really good way to start the season. I can’t thank the guys at Carlin enough.”

Enaam leads the championship with 95 points. Pull is second with 71 points, and Das third with 63.

Second round of the British F3 is this coming weekend at Rockingham.

INDYCAR SERIES

ALONSO VISITS BARBER AHEAD OF INDIANAPOLIS 500

A racer is a racer is a racer. If nothing more can be gleaned from Fernando Alonso’s visit today to Barber Motorsports Park – and his plan to race in the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil on May 28 – it’s that racers share one goal: to be faster than the rest, no matter the car or venue.

And to do that, they occasionally need assistance from other racers.

The two-time Formula One champion explained that he’ll need help to be competitive at Indianapolis next month, so he’s relying on his five temporary teammates at Andretti Autosport – Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti, Alexander Rossi, Takuma Sato and Jack Harvey – to help him get up to speed.

“I need to learn all of these things,” Alonso said. “To learn them alone would take two years. To learn it with some help would take six months. But I have two weeks. I will need a lot of help.”

Alonso has 32 F1 victories and championships in 2005 and 2006 to his credit. Aside from some Indy 500 warmups on a simulator in Italy, though, he has no experience with Indianapolis Motor Speedway, oval tracks or Indy cars.

“I will need the help to be competitive,” he said. “I’m very open-minded, knowing that the series is completely different, the cars are completely different and superspeedways require a driving technique and a driving feeling that’s completely different and that I don’t have yet.”

Alonso met his teammates Saturday night after arriving at Barber to watch today’s Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama presented by America’s First. From there, he’ll travel to Andretti Autosport headquarters in Indianapolis on Monday for a seat fitting and more time on a simulator. He’ll then travel to Sochi, Russia, for next weekend’s Russian Grand Prix and his fulltime job with the McLaren Honda F1 team before returning to Indianapolis Motor Speedway for a solo test in the McLaren-Andretti Honda on May 3.

That’s when the sorting of the details will commence.

“The setup of the car is extremely important, because the difference is in milliseconds,” Alonso said. “To set up the car for different parts of the race in different wind direction and fuel loads in the car, tire degradation – there are many things that you need to make small adjustments, apparently, that I have no idea about.”

For now, Alonso is just taking as much in as he can and relying on his fellow racers in the process.

“There are many, many things – more than people can imagine,” Alonso said. “There are little things when you’re driving at those speeds and you have all those things going on – the radio, etc. – but we are professional drivers and we should be able to deal with it.”

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