Lewis Hamilton: Alonso will be best driver in 2017 Indy 500 field

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Lewis Hamilton believes that Fernando Alonso’s entry to the 101st Indianapolis 500 is a “tall order”, but has backed the two-time Formula 1 world champion to impress, believing he will be the best driver in the field.

Alonso announced on Wednesday that he would be missing the Monaco Grand Prix to enter the Indy 500 as part of a joint entry between McLaren, Honda and Andretti Autosport.

The news has been the talk of the F1 paddock ahead of this weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix, with Hamilton being asked about his former teammate’s decision on Thursday.

The three-time world champion said he thought he would be challenging for Alonso given the different style of racing and lack of testing, but still thinks he will be the best driver in the field.

“It’s a completely different category so it’s a lot, lot different. I’ve never driven one of those tracks but it would be so different for us to go and do that,” Hamilton said.

“How a car’s setup, because it’s assymetric I think, the banking, how much you lift, how you use the tires, it takes us guys forever through these test days to learn how to operate these tires in the right window. I would imagine it’s not an easy thing to do in one go. It’s definitely a tall order in a short space of time.

“Jeez, you’ve got one of the best drivers in the world going there. For sure will be the best driver in the paddock.

“He just won’t have the experience that anyone would have, so I think it will be a very exciting challenge for him to see how strong he can fare against those who have all that experience.”

While Alonso is refusing to set any expectations for his bow at the ‘500 next month, the Spaniard is relishing the fact he has a chance of winning one of motorsport’s biggest races – something he would not have at Monaco given McLaren’s current struggles.

“Monaco is the biggest race of the calendar in Formula 1 and the event is amazing, not only the race on Sunday, the whole weekend is amazing,” Alonso said.

“The best result that we achieved was last year, fifth. I think we are little bit less competitive this year. We are maybe have the possibility to have another top five or top seven, whatever, it’s great to have some points.

“But I won a couple of times there and I’m a two-time world champion so to add fifth, seventh in Monaco, it will not change my life.

“In a way it’s impossible to compare to have the minimum chance to win the Indy 500 compared to fifth or sixth or seventh in Monaco. It’s much bigger the other possibility.”