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Villeneuve hails Alonso’s Indy 500 entry as ‘amazing’

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Jacques Villeneuve has called two-time Formula 1 world champion Fernando Alonso’s decision to enter the 101st Indianapolis 500 “amazing”, but doubts he stands much chance of winning on debut.

Alonso shocked the motorsport world last week by announcing that he would miss the Monaco Grand Prix in May so he could enter the Indy 500 as part of a joint effort between McLaren, Honda and Andretti Autosport.

The news has divided opinion in racing circles, but 1995 Indy 500 winner Villeneuve was delighted by it, himself having also raced in both F1 and Indy cars before.

“He will go for it, and that’s what’s great. That’s what makes it exciting. It’s typical gladiators and that’s what built the sport, made it what it is today,” Villeneuve told Reuters.

“So it’s good that there’s someone going back to its roots like this, it’s amazing.” Villeneuve did, however, add that Alonso’s chances of a rookie victory were “tiny”.

Villeneuve is one of just a handful of drivers in racing history to attempt all three races that make up motorsport’s ‘Triple Crown’: the Indy 500 (1994, 1995, 2014), the Monaco Grand Prix (1996-2006) and the 24 Hours of Le Mans (2007, 2008).

In his bid to become one of the greatest drivers of all-time, Alonso has set his sights on winning the Triple Crown, and Villeneuve is disappointed that more F1 drivers are not similarly-driven.

“What I find disappointing is how many drivers say ‘why bother, it’s only an oval race, it’s dangerous, why would I race there?’ Well, you’re a racer,” Villeneuve said.

“If you are a pure race fan and are passionate and a racer at heart, you have to be interested in Le Mans and Indy 500 as well as F1. It’s the three main things in racing.

“For drivers, it was always important. I finished second in Le Mans which is a shame, that really kills me. That hurts.”

Despite entering all three races, Villeneuve has completed just one leg of the Triple Crown – his Indy win in 1995 – with his best Monaco finish being P4 in 2001 with BAR.

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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