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With nothing to lose, Alonso wants McLaren to take every risk possible in China

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Fernando Alonso has called on McLaren to take every risk possible during this weekend’s Chinese Grand Prix, saying the Formula 1 team has “nothing to lose” amid ongoing struggles with engine partner Honda.

Issues with the Honda power unit have left McLaren battling towards the back of the grid, appearing to take a step back from the progress that was made through 2016.

Alonso has been dragging the MCL32 car as far up the grid as he can, with his charge to P10 in Australia before retiring late on being deemed as exceeding the team’s expectations.

The Spaniard continued to impress in qualifying for the Chinese Grand Prix, telling the team he was “pushing like an animal” en route to P13 on the grid, having little regard for pushing over the limit.

“[I took] all the risks that are available out there. There is nothing to lose for us,” Alonso told NBCSN after qualifying.

“If we have a spin, if we are on the grass for one moment, we abort the lap and we seem not to lose too much.

“The expectations before qualifying were very pessimistic, we were uncompetitive in FP3 and we thought that Q1 was our maximum target.

“But surprise surprise, we are 13th and we need to take this position and hopefully take any opportunity tomorrow.”

Despite lapping less than a second slower than Red Bull, Alonso said there was “not really” any comfort to take from the result, leaving him praying for rain in Sunday’s race.

“Yeah I think with dry conditions it’s unlikely we can score points, so I think wet conditions should help us,” Alonso said.

“We’ve raced here a couple of times in those conditions, so hopefully we can take advantage of those.”

The Chinese Grand Prix is live on NBCSN and the NBC Sports app from 1am ET.

Ben Hanley relieved to make Indy 500 debut

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Qualifying for the Indy 500 is never an easy task, especially for a new driver and team, and with 36 cars vying for 33 starting positions last weekend, 34-year-old rookie Ben Hanley knew there was a chance he and his DragonSpeed team would not make the show.

“I wouldn’t say we were very confident, but we wanted to [make the field],” Hanley told NBC Sports. “The biggest thing we were trying to achieve was to not be on track on Sunday in the shootout because it only takes one mistake or one little issue and that’s it, you’re not in the race.”

But Hanley would not have to worry about being bumped from the field. He qualified 27th after making three attempts on Day 1, which was enough to lock the No. 81 team into the show. Not too shabby for a driver and team making only their third NTT IndyCar Series start.

THE 103RD INDIANAPOLIS 500: Click here for how to watch, full daily schedules

“That last run everything just came together,” Hanley said. “We trimmed out a little bit more and found a good balance of trim and grip over four [qualifying] laps and it was enough to get us through.

“It was a huge relief to get through in P27. A massive achievement for everybody involved.”

Indeed it was a massive achievement, as DragonSpeed is one of the smallest teams in the garage, with no corporate sponsors and a tiny team of around 20 personnel. Many of those were picked up by the team just a week before qualifying, when members of the team’s regular crew were denied entry into the United States due to visa issues after leaving a sports car race in Italy.

“It was all down to the team organizing some people who were in and around Indianapolis who weren’t needed for the race weekend,” Hanley said. “Obviously, I don’t think many people are going to refuse the chance to work on a car that’s trying to qualify for the 500.”

Though the team made its first Indy 500 on Day 1 of qualifying, the DragonSpeed team did not spend Saturday night out late celebrating. Instead, Hanley said the extra time was spent preparing for the race.

“We went straight on to race prep then for the car, so Sunday was a good day for the guys to take time to prep the car into the race spec and get everything sorted out in a nice, organized manner.”

Following the Indy 500, DragonSpeed will run two other races this season at Road America and Mid-Ohio. The team is hopeful that a good run at Indy will result in an opportunity to run a bigger schedule next season and attract sponsors.

Hanley stated that though he’s happy to have made the Indy 500 starting grid for the first time in his career, the magnitude of his feat hasn’t hit him yet.

“It hasn’t really soaked in yet,” he said. “I think it will soak in on Sunday when we roll out to the grid.

“It was such a huge relief to not be involved in Bump Day. Even just watching [Bump Day] it was intense, especially with the weather. I couldn’t even imagine what it would be like to be involved in that.”

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