Fernando Alonso completes his Rookie Orientation Program at Indy (VIDEO)

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Fernando Alonso has completed his Rookie Orientation Program for the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil, driving the No. 29 McLaren Honda Andretti entry at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in his first running. This means he is cleared to participate in the race itself.

It took just 50 laps for Alonso to work through ROP, at a best speed of 219.654 mph (40.9735 seconds) around the 2.5-mile speedway.

The phases of ROP are 10 laps in the 205-210 mph range, then 15 in the 210-215 mph range, then 15 north of 215-plus.

Alonso expressed his first comments to Robin Miller during the IMS/NBC Sports App live stream, hosted by Kevin Lee, Mario Andretti and Johnny Rutherford with Miller on pit lane.

“It was fun! It was a good way to start to build the speed. It was a little bit difficult at the beginning to meet the minimum Now we can put some laps and feel a bit of a the car. Right now the car is driving myself, I’m not driving the car,” Alonso told Miller.

“The laps, with 30 laps, 40 laps in the book, you’re able to fine tune the lines, the upshift and downshifts. At the moment everything looks good. Now we start the real thing.

“I think the feeling of the simulator is quite realistic. The real car is such a unique feeling. It’s not the same in the simulator as the real thing! The real thing, Marco ran it this morning. Running alone is quite OK, we will see in the next weeks.

“It was so far a good experience. Now it starts the real deal.”

Team principal Michael Andretti, who will call Alonso’s race, said Alonso has done well and acclimated to the initial level of downforce.

“It was great. He did perfect. Now we can play a little bit after he looks at data, so he can see what’s on the data compared to how he’s feeling,” Andretti told Miller.

Alonso is set to run again after a quick break but it depends on whether weather will hit the track. Here is the official plan per INDYCAR communications head Curt Cavin:

Interestingly, the 51 laps he completed in this morning session, following Marco Andretti’s shakedown, are more than he has in any Grand Prix this year except for Bahrain (54 laps). At Australia (50 laps), China (33) and Russia (did not start), Alonso did not make as many laps.

Yes, it’s an oval compared to a road course and laps are quicker, but this was by all means a successful first run in the car.

More to follow…

Haas F1 driver Romain Grosjean to launch cookbook

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Haas Formula 1 driver Romain Grosjean may be one of the sport’s most promising talents on-track, but he also has a burning passion off it: cooking.

Grosjean may have been spent a good part of this year cooking his brakes, but you’ll now be able to cook bakes instead…

F1’s resident foodie is set to release a cookbook alongside wife Marion Jolles in the coming weeks, as announced on his Facebook page.

Grosjean currently sits 13th in the F1 drivers’ championship with 18 points to his name, helping Haas to match the points total from its debut season after just 10 races in 2017.

Mercedes F1 engine chief warns against underestimating Honda

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Mercedes Formula 1 engine chief Andy Cowell has warned against underestimating the threat of Honda despite its ongoing power unit struggles, tipping the Japanese manufacturer to bounce back in the near future.

Honda returned to F1 as a manufacturer in 2015, supplying V6 turbo power units to the McLaren team, but has struggled for either performance or reliability through that period.

The struggles have led McLaren – currently sat bottom of the constructors’ championship – to consider cutting ties for 2018 given how far adrift compared to the other three engine suppliers Honda has been.

Mercedes has been the benchmark for engine performance since the change in regulation for 2014, but Cowell feels that Honda could make up ground quickly, with the removal of the token system for 2017 helping performance to converge through the field.

“I think collectively we’ve helped with convergence in Formula 1 in the opening season, performance development through the year,” Cowell said.

“But then the opportunity to do a big change with Honda coming in, we all agreed that Honda could have that same opportunity to change everything in the first year and then the request came from manufacturers in addition to Honda saying ‘please can we take this crazy token table away because it’s bad for the sport?’

“It’s bad if somebody can’t train to get better and so we agreed, yeah, take the table away because it’s better for the sport because it means that you can innovate, you can introduce whatever you like.

“I think none of us should underestimate the technical prowess of Honda and of McLaren and I think my money is on that combination coming good and coming good pretty quickly. No pressure…”

Williams happy to ‘hold off’ on 2018 F1 driver decision

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Williams is happy to “hold off” on making a decision on its Formula 1 driver line-up for 2018 as it focuses on improving its on-track displays after a tough start to the season.

Williams currently fields Felipe Massa and Lance Stroll, a mix of experience and youth, but has failed to keep up with midfield front-runner Force India through the first half of the year.

Force India sits fourth in the constructors’ championship with more than double the points of Williams, who leads a tight-knit group down to Renault in eighth place, 15 points adrift.

While Stroll looks set to continue with Williams and Massa has hinted he may look to continue through to 2018 despite initially planning to retire at the end of last season, deputy team boss Claire Williams has confirmed that no decision about next year’s line-up will come any time soon.

“There’s a lot of talk already isn’t there, about drivers across the paddock. For us, we’ve decided we’re going to hold off a bit on our driver decision,” Williams said.

“We’ve got a fight on our hands on the race track at the moment and to be distracted by those kinds of conversations isn’t something that we want to be happening at the moment.

“[Force India’s] got a nice points haul on us at the moment we need to focus on, rather than anything else.”

Nico Rosberg visits Stanford University, considering study options

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2016 Formula 1 world champion Nico Rosberg is considering study options at Stanford University after visiting the college earlier this week as part of his tour around California.

Rosberg sensationally announced his retirement from F1 just five days after winning his maiden world title last November, wanting to spend more time with his young family.

The German has been enjoying his retirement, recently embarking on a tour of Silicon Valley and California that saw him hold meetings with electric car giant Tesla, among other companies.

In a video posted to his Twitter account on Sunday, Rosberg spoke warmly about a visit to Stanford, revealing that he is considering some study options in the near future at the historic institution.

Rosberg was previously offered a scholarship to study engineering at Imperial College London when he was younger, only to turn it down in order to embark on a racing career. He also reportedly holds the highest ever score on Williams’ engineering aptitude test.

Should Nico sign up to a course at Stanford, we imagine he’d take things one class at a time…