Franchitti: Alonso to Indy is ‘brilliant,’ but he’ll face challenges

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One of the modern masters of the Indianapolis 500, three-time champion Dario Franchitti, has offered advice and tempered expectations to two-time Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso ahead of his shock debut in this year’s 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil, in a jointly entered car between McLaren, Honda and Andretti Autosport.

While Franchitti says Alonso’s arrival is “brilliant,” he says the challenges of the iconic, 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway will test how well he understands the variables, such as wind conditions and the fact he’s moving from most F1 circuits that are layered with runoff area to an oval that has none.

“Fernando Alonso doing the Indianapolis 500 this year is brilliant. It’s brilliant for IndyCar, absolutely brilliant. To see him going head-to-head with the likes of Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Will Power, Helio Castroneves, these types of drivers, is just fantastic and it will make a massive splash around the world,” Franchitti said in a piece written for Motor Sport Magazine.

“The harder bit will be when conditions change and he has to adapt to them. At the Speedway it can be from the wind changing direction, a small rise in temperature or even humidity. You have to adapt to those changes in set-up and driving style. That’s where the experience comes in.

“All this with a backdrop of having no second chances: there’s no run off, if you make a mistake it tends to hurt. It will damage the car and if you can get away without hurting yourself it’s a good day. That wall is sitting there waiting for you. Trust me, he’ll be aware of that as soon as he leaves the pits! He’ll just have to adapt to that.”

The full piece is worth a read, and linked above.

Franchitti knows of what he speaks. Although he has become synonymous with success at the Speedway, it took him a few years to properly get the hang of it. His first win in the rain-shortened 2007 race came in his sixth attempt.

Rookies of course have won the race before, most recently Alexander Rossi last year (admittedly with help from strategic purposes), then Helio Castroneves and Juan Pablo Montoya in 2001 and 2000.

NASCAR champion Kurt Busch’s run at the track in 2014, as his first leg in the Indianapolis 500-Coca-Cola 600 double, wound up with a sixth place finish in an Andretti Autosport Honda.

Hamilton tops second Abu Dhabi F1 practice with new track record

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Lewis Hamilton swept to the top of the timesheets in second Formula 1 practice for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Friday evening, beating Ferrari rival Sebastian Vettel by one-tenth of a second.

Hamilton trailed Vettel through the daytime-run opening practice session, but managed to strike back by recording a new track record at the Yas Marina Circuit for Mercedes.

Hamilton recorded a fastest lap time of 1:37.877 to finish one-tenth of a second clear of Vettel at the checkered flag, appearing to have an edge across a single lap on the ultra-soft tire.

Red Bull threw its hat into the ring as a possible rival for pole through Daniel Ricciardo, who finished the session third-fastest, three-tenths of a second back from Hamilton at the head of the field.

Kimi Raikkonen ended FP2 in fourth place in the sister Ferrari, finishing within half a second of Hamilton, and managed to edge out fellow Finn Valtteri Bottas, who was a further two-tenths back in P5.

Max Verstappen failed to get in a quick flying lap during FP2, ending the session one second down in P6 for Red Bull.

Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon’s tight intra-team fight at Force India continued through FP2 as the pair were separated by just 0.01 seconds, taking seventh and eighth respectively to finish as the leading midfield drivers.

Nico Hulkenberg and Fernando Alonso completed the top 10 for Renault and McLaren, with Felipe Massa following in 11th for Williams on his final Friday appearance in F1.

Massa was fortunate to avoid an accident with Ricciardo during the final 15 minutes of the session after a mix up at the hairpin when the Brazilian tried to get a wider line for the back straight.

Running in Abu Dhabi continues with final practice at Yas Marina on Saturday morning from 5am ET on the NBC Sports app, followed by qualifying at 8am ET on NBCSN.