Fernando Alonso says that running only 29 laps of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Wednesday's test meant he's unable to judge whether the McLaren-Chevrolet package will be competitive.
Bad weather ruined the scheduling at IMS, which was supposed to allow two hours for full-time 2019 NTT IndyCar Series entries and oval veterans to test, followed by two hours for rookies and veteran refreshers, then three hours for all participants.
However, barely 15mins into the opening session, the caution flew for rain, and the track remained down for over four hours. When action resumed, the veterans got around 90mins, the rookies and when the rain returned in the evening, the refreshers had received a similar amount of track time, and the final ‘combined’ session had been canned.
However, Alonso missed the first 45mins of the rookie and refreshers period due to an electrical problem and the abbreviated session meant that he and others still need to complete their refresher course.
Alonso needs to turn 10 more laps at 215-plus mph, while Helio Castroneves, JR Hildebrand and Oriol Servia need to turn two, three and eight laps respectively. All four will be permitted to do so on the opening day of Indy 500 practice on Tuesday, May 14.
“It's great to be back," said Alonso. "Every time you enter the Indianapolis Motor Speedway it's a great feeling. Even though we were unlucky with the weather and also had some issues with the car, we still got in some laps and the adrenaline driving around here is unique, so I feel happy.
“As a team the plan for today was to build speed step by step and complete all the right checks. With every run we were discovering new things, but at the end of the day, it was a very short time on the track, so it is difficult to say if I feel we have a competitive car.
“More track time is all we need and I'm sure we will recover those laps in May.
“This time the Indy 500 feels different for me, I know the race, I know the length and we should be a bit more ready especially on the emotional side. Now it's just about making sure the car is fast. We have two weeks and a lot of work to do, but I'm confident we'll keep moving in the right direction.”
Alonso, whose only previous experience of racing the Indy’s iconic oval came in 2017 with a McLaren-backed Andretti Autosport entry, said that McLaren entering this year fully under its own banner – albeit with a technical alliance with Carlin – was a tougher proposition.
“Basically I think it’s a bit of a challenge, no doubt,” he said. “I think we have to do everything by ourselves, not only in terms of setup-wise, on the technical side: it's also on the operational side, on the strategy, tire management, the comfort side in terms of precision, steering wheel grip – basic things that they were ready with at Andretti. You save a lot of time.
“Yeah, basically it's a bigger challenge. But it could be a bigger reward, as well! I think some of the philosophy or directions that McLaren may go in the next month, maybe now is a little bit different. With Andretti we just followed what we knew was working. In a way it was easier.
“But maybe now we can discover new things. That's our hope.”