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Fernando Alonso makes Fast Nine shootout in first qualifying

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INDIANAPOLIS – In his first ever four-lap qualifying attempt for the Indianapolis 500, Fernando Alonso has lived up to the hype – and the potential – he’s displayed this week in the No. 29 McLaren Honda Andretti entry.

Alonso’s four laps of 230.337, 230.260, 229.845 and 229.696 mph around the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway ensured a four-lap average of 230.034 mph, which held up for seventh and puts him into the Fast Nine Shootout on Sunday, one of four Andretti Autosport cars (out of six) to make it in. Alonso was locked in with three more drivers to run, following ex-Andretti driver Carlos Munoz’s run.

Alonso went through the media bullpen after his run, while track activity was on hold following clean-up after Sebastien Bourdais’ accident.

Working with engineer Eric Bretzman and the rest of the Andretti team, Alonso said he felt comfortable with the setup going into his first single-car qualifying attempt on an oval.

“Well we decided yesterday after some runs that we did and we felt comfortable,” Alonso told NBC Sports. “But today we were talking constantly, all day long. At the beginning with the weather, that creates stress because you only have one attempt, one shot, so you need to put everything right in place from the beginning to the end.

“But we didn’t touch the car. The decisions we made yesterday, we just kept it because we didn’t know what the weather was doing, what the wind was doing, what the temperature is doing, so we said we’ll keep the same. We knew that this worked yesterday so we’ll see it today.”

Alonso described the feel of going through the first of two days of qualifying.

“I think with a normal qualifying, that’s great. The people can see a lot of cars on the track for many hours today and many hours tomorrow,” he said.

“With the weather today, obviously everything changed and it’s still OK. I think you have the possibility today to make some setup changes, to think about how you went, what to improve for tomorrow, and tomorrow to put in that perfect lap we want one day as a driver.”

As for whether he can realistically expect the pole position tomorrow?

“I think we need to see. I think everyone will pick up speed tomorrow after today’s run,” he said.

“We will tune a little bit the car and try to get it a bit more competitive tomorrow. But when I close the visor, you have to be sure I will go for it.”

Verstappen doesn’t want F1 season to end after recent run of form

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Max Verstappen says he is not ready for the 2017 Formula 1 season to come to an end after enjoying a run of strong form through the closing stages of the campaign.

Verstappen endured a rocky run of form through to the end of the European season that saw him suffer a number of reliability issues and score just a single podium finish, taking third in China back in April.

However, the Dutchman has rallied to score more points than any other driver in the last five races, including victories in Malaysia and Mexico, as well as a podium finish in Japan.

Verstappen heads into next weekend’s Abu Dhabi Grand Prix chasing a third win of the year to sign off, but joked he does not want the season to end just as he’s got into a good groove.

“We will, of course, try and end the season with a strong result in Abu Dhabi,” Verstappen said. “Last year was actually quite a good race after skipping a pit stop following a spin at Turn 1, it was hard to manage the tires to the end of the race but we did it and finished fourth.

“I would say that my favorite part of the track is at Turns 2 and 3, the fast left, right. It’s also very cool driving underneath the hotel and racing in the darkness with all the lights.

“The final sector at Yas Marina is actually quite technical so you have to be really precise there, but it should also be our strongest part of the track.

“There are quite a few overtaking opportunities to make the race interesting, before the long straight at the hairpin and then at the end of the straight under braking for the next chicane section.

“Abu Dhabi is the last race on the calendar, but I don’t actually want the season to end. I’m really fired up at the moment and I just want to keep going.

“The nice thing will be to spend some time with friends and family over the winter break and then I will look ahead to January and get back into training before it all starts again.”