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Horner calls McLaren ‘mad’ to let Alonso enter ‘nutty’ Indy 500

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Red Bull Formula 1 chief Christian Horner believes that McLaren is “mad” to let Fernando Alonso race in the 101st Indianapolis 500, saying he would not let his drivers miss a grand prix to do another event.

McLaren announced on Wednesday that it would be entering Alonso into the Indy 500 as part of a joint entry with Honda and Andretti Autosport, meaning the Spaniard will skip the Monaco Grand Prix.

The news has split opinion in the F1 paddock, with a number of drivers saying that although they would like to enter other events, they would not do so at the expense of existing commitments.

Speaking on Friday in Bahrain, Horner – in a somewhat expressive mood, it must be noted – made his feelings about McLaren’s allowance to let Alonso enter the ‘500 clear while sat next to its executive director and the man who brokered the deal, Zak Brown.

“It’s difficult one for Fernando, he’s having a tough time. Zak’s got the problem he’s got a depressed driver on his hands, he’s trying to keep him motivated,” Horner said.

“He’s come up with this idea, send him to Indianapolis. He must be barking mad, it’s the nuttiest race I’ve ever seen. No testing, he’s just going to jump in the car. Turn 1 there is a proper turn as well, it’s not just easy flat all the way around. I think he needs to see a psychiatrist personally.

“Would we let our drivers do it? No. I believe if a driver commits to a team, it’s a bit like disappearing with another girlfriend halfway through the year and then coming back. It doesnt’ seem the right thing to be doing.

“Perhaps if the races didn’t clash or at the end of his Formula 1 career, but obviously McLaren has got this approach which is different to ours, but good for them.”

Asking for the right to reply, Brown defended the decision, putting his faith in Alonso.

“Fernando’s not scared! He’s going to get some testing in,” Brown explained. “He’s studying Indianapolis. It’s obviously going to be a challenge but he wants a challenge. A rookie driver won it last year, not that we’re going to set any expectations.

“I think he’ll have a car capable of running at the front. I think he’ll be extremely prepared. I think he’ll put on a good show. He’s very smart, that’s what you need to be around Indianapolis. I think it’s going to be good, everyone’s going to be watching.”

Brown then took to Twitter to respond to Horner’s psychiatrist line, reminding the Red Bull chief of the time he jumped into the team’s pool at Monaco wearing nothing but a superman cape after losing a bet.

Marco Andretti confident that fewer tests won’t hurt Andretti Autosport

Photo: IndyCar
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A small point of debate around the 2018 aero kit has been the manufacturer test days that took place through the Fall of 2017 and into the beginning of 2018. Chiefly, the debate has centered around teams who hadn’t participated in those manufacturer test days and if they’re starting the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season at a disadvantage as a result.

Team Penske, Ed Carpenter Racing, and A.J. Foyt Racing completed test days for Chevrolet, with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and Chip Ganassi Racing doing so for Honda.

That left teams like Andretti Autosport out of the mix, with some voicing concerns as a result.

However, in a press conference during testing at ISM Raceway last weekend, Marco Andretti explained that he thinks Andretti Autosport should be able to catch up on development, citing the team’s resources – they’re the only IndyCar team with four full-time cars in their stable – and the fact that everyone is still adapting to the new kit.

“I feel like it’s early enough days that, yes, we can catch up,” Andretti said at ISM Raceway. “When there is anything new, a new car, new aero kit, at-track days are huge. We can sim all these things we want. To really get out there and confirm what we’re learning back at the shop is another thing.”

Ryan Hunter-Reay during testing at ISM Raceway. Photo: IndyCar

Andretti continued, “Yeah, I don’t think we should look at it like we’re behind the eight ball. With a four-car team, that’s where we can use it to our benefit. So far so good.”

Teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay, echoed Andretti’s sentiments, adding that while the situation is not perfect, they will need to adapt to it in order to remain competitive.

“Any time you have a new car, to put it into perspective, we’re on track three days on a road course before we get to (the season open in St. Petersburg). That’s a very short amount of time. It’s obviously not ideal, but we’re just going to lace up our boots and get on with it. That’s all you can do.”

Andretti Autosport will have one more team test, at Sebring International Raceway later on in February, before the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

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