Alonso embracing challenges of his ‘Indy 500 adventure

Fernando Alonso is on a personal “Indy 500 adventure” that is both a labor of love and ambition for the two-time Formula One champion.

The Spaniard will attempt to run the Indianapolis 500 next month, and hopefully, some day, the 24 Hours of Le Mans. It’s part of his quest to win what’s considered the Triple Crown of racing — Alonso already has won the Monaco Grand Prix — but this bid will require him to master new cars and racing styles.

Maybe that’s why Indy is so appealing at this stage of his successful career.

“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,” Alonso said Sunday at Barber Motorsports Park, where he’d flown from Europe to watch Andretti Autosport compete in the IndyCar race.

To be the most complete driver in the world, Alonso has a lofty goal for Indianapolis: “I need to win it. And if it’s not this year, we will plan it for the next attempt.”

Alonso drives for struggling McLaren in Formula One. He will be the sixth entry for Andretti Autosport at Indy in a partnership with Honda and McLaren. The 35-year-old has begun preparing for Indy by testing on a simulator, where the walls aren’t so intimidating and there’s no traffic to negotiate.

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He flew to Alabama on Saturday, had dinner with his fellow Andretti drivers and flashed both confidence and humor at a Sunday news conference. Team and IndyCar executives believe the Formula One-to-Indy move by such an accomplished driver is a win for all sides, bringing exposure across the ocean in both directions.

“I don’t think there’s one person that’s involved in this thing that’s not going to get something out of it,” said Michael Andretti, founder and CEO of Andretti Autosport. “I think it’s going to be a fantastic thing. I think there’s so much interest all over the world, and it’s going to be great for Formula One, great for IndyCar, great for the Indy 500, great for our team, great for McLaren.”

Andretti, a former IndyCar champion, raced for McLaren in Formula One in 1993.

Mark Miles, CEO of IndyCar’s parent company, Hulman & Company, plans a European tour to build on the renewed interest.

McLaren’s Zak Brown said he sees no downside to the endeavor. The team brought in Gil de Ferran, the 2003 Indy 500 winner, as driver coach for Alonso. And Alonso will get a full day test at the speedway early next month.

All parties have admitted that if McLaren and Honda weren’t struggling so much in F1 right now, Alonso never could have skipped Monaco to race Indianapolis.

“I’d like to see McLaren here on a more regular basis,” said Brown, executive director of McLaren Technology. “And would we do it with Fernando again? Absolutely. I hope that we have the problem of Monaco and Indy in the same weekend and we are fighting for the championship.

“So what happens in 2018, we’ll have to wait and see, because obviously we’re working very hard to get Fernando and Stoffel Vandoorne a much more competitive car than we are producing right now.”

This is McLaren’s first time in the Indy 500 in 38 years. Stefan Wilson gave up his ride to accommodate Alonso, and Brown called him “the unsung hero in this whole process.”

Alonso wants to wait until after the May 28 race to seriously contemplate a possible repeat performance. He’s also uncertain when he’d run the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which could force him to miss multiple Formula One races.

Then, it’s back to his regular job, preparing for the Russian Grand Prix. He’ll also run the Spanish Grand Prix on May 14.

Alonso said he didn’t tell anyone, even his family, about his decision until the day of his announcement.

As for his F1 peers, Alonso professes to learn their opinions only from comments in the media.

“We don’t talk much there,” he said. “It’s a different world. I don’t know, the only thing that I know is probably what you guys (reporters) read, you know, because it’s what I read, as well. 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.

“But it’s OK. I think, different world.”

Source – TheJakartaPost

Sebastian Vettel wins Bahrain Grand Prix for Ferrari

Sebastian Vettel is back on top of the Formula One standings and his Ferrari team is bursting with ambition again.

A couple of hours after Vettel had held off his Mercedes rival Lewis Hamilton to win an exciting Bahrain Grand Prix on Sunday — the German driver’s second victory in three races — Ferrari’s chairman spoke with new-found confidence.

“It is, of course, hugely satisfying to be back on the top step of the podium,” Sergio Marchionne said. “More importantly, however, we are now completely confident that our victory in Melbourne wasn’t just a one-off and that we will be at the forefront of this world championship until the last (race).”

Fighting talk from Ferrari, at long last.

Vettel is chasing his fifth world title and is seven points ahead of three-time champion Hamilton in the drivers’ standings, while Ferrari is three points in front of Mercedes in the constructors’ race.

The renewed optimism is in contrast to last year, when Ferrari did not even win a race and where Vettel drew more attention for his frustrated outbursts during actual races rather than his driving.

Ferrari won the last of its 15 drivers’ titles through Kimi Raikkonen in 2007, and the last of its 16 constructors’ titles a year later. A demoralizing drought for such a fiercely proud team, certainly, but this year promises to be different.

“We finally have a competitive car to count on and it is important to recognize the speed with which we implemented the developments,” Marchionne said. “My compliments not just to Seb for his achievements in Bahrain, but also to the whole team.”

Sebastian Vettel wins first grand Prix in Melbourne.

The 2017 Formula 1 season is looming as a shoot-out between the sport’s greatest modern drivers after Sebastian Vettel won the Australian Grand Prix, 10 seconds ahead of Lewis Hamilton.

The Brit started the day in pole position but a tactical misjudgement from his Mercedes team allowed the Ferrari driver to take the lead on lap 24, and the German held on with ease to claim the first race win for the Prancing Horse since 2015.

Valtteri Bottas finished behind his Mercedes team-mate to claim the final podium position, while local hope Daniel Ricciardo endured a miserable afternoon, bowing out of the race with a whimper on lap 30.

Hamilton (three) and Vettel (four) have seven championships between them, but have never competed against each other in evenly matched machines, meaning the 2017 season now looms as a mouth-watering showdown between the two.

“It is a long way ahead. For now we are just over the moon,” Vettel said after the race.

“The car is really screaming, ‘more, more, more’,” he said of the rule changes which promised to bring Mercedes back to the pack slightly and give fans more action-packed racing than in 2016.

Ricciardo, due to start from 15th on the grid after his Red Bull team were forced to change the gear box in his car after yesterday’s crash, did not make it through the warm-up lap before problems surfaced.

His car stuck in sixth gear, leaving him stranded on the track. He was given a lift back to the pits and his team frantically worked to get the engine going again. They eventually did so, two laps into the race.

Relatively clean start gives Hamilton the early lead

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Max Verstappen: “I think everything is still within reach.”

After the fourth and final test day Max Verstappen remains confident about his chances for next season. De Limburger, which is the final test session – partly in the rain – in his RB13 concluded with the second fastest time behind the Ferrari of Kimi Raikkonen, talks about a successful week. “Actually, nothing here really surprised me in Barcelona, the last four days. And I think everything is still within reach.”

“For us it was important to make the meters with the new car. Get used to the car and team and see if all parts of the car to do what they should do. The car behaves happy just fine.”

Red Bull launch RB13 ahead of 2017 F1 season

Red Bull Racing has as last top team in F1 unveiled his new car. The car in which Max Verstappen and team mate Daniel Ricciardo will compete, has a distinctive opening at the front of the nose.

The in matt colors painted car has also a kink in the nose as the car of Force India. The large shark fin on the RB13 is sprayed completely dark.

Photos: #Twitter – @redbullracing