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Alonso: ‘Everyone is more relaxed and happy’ in IndyCar


Having spent time in both the IndyCar and Formula 1 paddocks over the past month, Fernando Alonso has delivered his verdict on the varying atmospheres, pressures and expectations in the two series ahead of this weekend’s Canadian Grand Prix.

Alonso skipped the Monaco Grand Prix in order to make his debut at the Indianapolis 500 two weeks ago, where he qualified fifth and ran up front for much of the race before retiring due to an engine failure.

One of the most entertaining images to come out of Alonso’s ‘500 odyssey was of the Spaniard traveling down Gasoline Alley on a skateboard.

While Alonso said he hadn’t broken out the skateboard before in the F1 paddock before as it was not allowed, it did lead him into an interesting comparison between the two environments.

“Well the skateboarding, I think here you are not allowed to bring those kind of things!” Alonso said.

“The whole atmosphere is just different there. Everyone is more relaxed, is happy. Even the way of events we had, everyone is proud of that race, of that event. They’ve been there for many years. Everyone that comes to the race, they are just proud to welcome them and they expect to have fun in that race.

“I don’t say that here is different, but here with years and you know with all the business that is around F1, everyone is trying to find some war or something you say or do that creates maybe a thing behind to more on the news. There it is just about 33 drivers doing the race and just enjoying race.

“Here it is more. Formula 1 is bigger in every sense, and because it is bigger, there are other things. But it’s in all kind of sports in happens. You are more relaxed because the environment is more relaxed.

“There is not the pressure and everything that Formula 1 has here. It is just different.”

Hartley happy with ‘big progression’ on first day with Toro Rosso

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With 69 laps completed (28 in free practice one and 41 in free practice two) and respectable lap times in both sessions, Brendon Hartley quickly acclimated to a modern day Formula 1 chassis in his first run with Scuderia Toro Rosso in Friday practice for the United States Grand Prix.

The Porsche factory driver has been drafted into the team following a convoluted series of musical chairs that sees Daniil Kvyat back after a two-race absence, Carlos Sainz Jr. now at Renault and Pierre Gasly racing at the Super Formula season finale in Suzuka.

Over the time in the car today, Hartley experienced changeable conditions in FP1 before a more normal FP2, and discovered the new F1 cockpit after a day learning in the garage yesterday.

“A steep learning curve today! It all went pretty smoothly and I kept the car on track without making too many mistakes, so I’m quite happy,” the New Zealander reflected at day’s end.

“I didn’t really know what to expect from today because I just had so much to learn! I think I made quite a big progression throughout the day.

“The biggest difference from what I’m used to is the high-speed grip, it’s incredible here in Formula 1…it was quite an eye-opener! Another challenge are the tires, which are also quite different to what I’m used to. On the other hand, the long-run looks quite positive and I did a good job managing the tires there – the biggest thing I need to work on now is the new tire pace, and I’ll get another crack at it tomorrow morning before qualifying.

“All in all, I’d say it’s all coming together. We’ll now work hard and go through plenty of data tonight and hopefully I’ll make another step forward tomorrow.”

His best lap was 1.1 seconds up on Friday driver Sean Gelael, the Indonesian Formula 2 driver, in FP1 (1:39.267 to 1:40.406, good enough for 14th) and 1.1 seconds off the returning Kvyat in FP2 (1:37.987 to 1:36.761, good enough for 17th). Interestingly, the Gelael/Hartley combination in FP1 marked the second time in three races that Toro Rosso had a pair of drivers in its cars without a single Grand Prix start between them – Gasly’s debut at Malaysia was the other, when he and Gelael were in in FP1.

Coming into Friday’s running, Hartley said he was more ready for this opportunity now than he had been as a teenager. He admitted he’d called Red Bull’s Helmut Marko in the wake of Porsche’s LMP1 withdrawal news earlier this year to say he was game for any chance that might come.

“I’m a lot stronger than I was back then, basically. I wasn’t ready at 18 years old. I like to think I’m ready now,” he said.

“I haven’t driven a single-seater since 2012, but I like to think that Porsche LMP1 has hopefully prepared me well.”

As for the rest of his weekend, it’s been made more complicated by Hartley being assessed a 25-spot grid penalty, even though Hartley had done nothing to accrue the penalties.

The roundabout sequence of driver changes at Toro Rosso saw Gasly replace Kvyat, Kvyat replace Sainz, and now Hartley replace Gasly, as is outlined by NBCSN pit reporter Will Buxton below.