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Fernando Alonso says he is ‘less than a rookie’ when it comes to Indy 500

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It isn’t often that a two-time world driving champion describes himself as “less than a rookie,” but that was the case Sunday as Fernando Alonso stepped into unknown territory.

The Spaniard was in the center of activity at Barber Motorsports Park as he visited for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama. It was a primer of sorts for Alonso as he detours from Formula 1 and prepares to race in the Indianapolis 500 May 28.

Regarded as one of the best drivers in the world, Alonso has never competed in an oval race, and he’ll make that big step next month at the world’s most famous speedway, skipping the Monaco Grand Prix.

He toured the IndyCar paddock Sunday, getting a close look at the flavor of car he’ll drive in the 500.

He will undergo a quick course — hopefully not a crash course — in all things Indianapolis, beginning with a test at Indianapolis Motor Speedway May 3.

Alonso will drive a McLaren Honda prepared by Andretti Autosport, which fielded last year’s 500 winner, Alexander Rossi.
 

Alonso will drive a McLaren Honda prepared by Andretti Autosport in next month’s Indy 500. Photo by LAT Photographic

“I will learn, you know, starting from zero, as a rookie or even less than a rookie May 3, but I’m confident that we will be ready,” Alonso said.

Clearly enjoying his first steps onto new turf, Alonso issued a couple of amusing zingers during his Sunday press conference.

Asked if it would be fun to race against former Formula 1 driver Juan Pablo Montoya again, Alonso said with a smile, “I don’t know if he will be in the front.”

He also referred to the general climate in Formula 1, where the landscape is quite different, when asked about other F1 drivers’ reaction to his move.

“We don’t talk much there,” he said, smiling. “It’s a different world. … Some of them are happy for me and happy for this thing and curious to see how competitive we can be. Some others — they are not happy with anything in life. So, this was another thing for their own problems.”

Alonso said next month’s race won’t necessarily be his only attempt in the 500.

“I want to be the most complete driver in the world and the best driver in the world, and I want to win all the series in different cars with different driving techniques,” he said. “If I want to do that, I need to win it. And if it’s not this year, we will plan it for the next attempt.”



By Mike Hembree

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