Photo: IndyCar

Alonso leads ROP/refresher session as several others debut

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INDIANAPOLIS – Fernando Alonso paced the opening practice session for the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil – albeit one that only features a handful of the 33 cars scheduled to compete running.

The two-time Formula 1 World Champion was back out after arriving Sunday night from the Spanish Grand Prix, and did 35 laps in the session with a best speed of 221.634 mph in the No. 29 McLaren Honda Andretti entry.

His Spanish countryman Oriol Servia (technically, he’s Catalan) was second in his first IndyCar running since last year’s Indianapolis 500, when he was in Schmidt Peterson Motorsports’ third car. Servia, now in the No. 16 Manitowoc Honda for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, clocked a speed of 220.759 mph.

Jones good to go. Photo: IndyCar

Ed Jones was first on the day to complete all three phases of his Rookie Orientation Program. The Dubai-based Brit got through easily and in a total of 48 laps, posted a best speed of 219.288 mph, in the No. 19 Boy Scouts of America Honda for Dale Coyne Racing.

Jay Howard and Sebastian Saavedra have completed all phases of their refresher program for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and Juncos Racing, respectively.

Juncos Racing has debuted. Photo: IndyCar

Both Saavedra and Spencer Pigot completed laps for Juncos in Ricardo Juncos’ maiden run with his Chevrolet-powered IndyCar on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval. Saavedra did the bulk of them with a best lap of 216.598 mph in 22 laps, while Pigot only did an installation lap in his car.

Harvey’s session is underway. Photo: IndyCar

Rookie Jack Harvey completed the first phase of his ROP program despite a clutch issue for his No. 50 Michael Shank Racing with Andretti Autosport Honda. Further issues have prohibited him from completing phases two and three as yet.

The fourth member of the rookie group, Zach Veach, is yet to get through ROP. The driver of the No. 40 Indy Women in Tech Championship Chevrolet was late out, barely out before 2 p.m., owing to late completion of the car’s build.

Additional notes from this morning are linked here.

Buddy Lazier’s chassis is here, and was spotted in the garage earlier today. The Lazier Racing Partners team is building up the car and it remains to be seen when it will first hit the track.

Temperatures have increased from 77 ambient and 106 track this morning to 83 and 122, respectively, later on.

Speeds from this first two-hour session are below, with all cars now available to go on track until 6 p.m. ET.

McLaren almost back on schedule with 2018 F1 car after delay

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McLaren is almost back on schedule with its 2018 Formula 1 car development after losing two weeks due to a delay in deciding on its engine supplier, according to racing director Eric Boullier.

McLaren confirmed back in September it would be cutting ties with Honda at the end of the year after three difficult seasons, favoring a switch to Renault power units.

The decision was not taken lightly by McLaren, causing it to lose two weeks in the development of next year’s car, but Boullier confirmed in an interview with the official F1 website that the team is almost back on-track.

“Maybe we made the decision to change the engine manufacturer two weeks too late for our schedule, but these two weeks have almost been recovered,” Boullier said.

“Any big decisions are always difficult to take. The concept of McLaren winning with Honda was a dream for everybody, yes – it was a beautiful story.

“Today we have huge respect for them and we definitely don’t divorce with fights and screams and finger pointing. We are all very professional – and in the end it was a business decision, which they understand.

“There is a sadness that it didn’t work out like we wanted. McLaren-Honda in terms of brands was a good fit – in terms of results it didn’t work.

“That’s what it is in the end. Now we have to see that we get back to competitiveness – back to the top!”