Jacques Villeneuve has called two-time Formula 1 world champion Fernando Alonso’s decision to enter the 101st Indianapolis 500 “amazing”, but doubts he stands much chance of winning on debut.
Alonso shocked the motorsport world last week by announcing that he would miss the Monaco Grand Prix in May so he could enter the Indy 500 as part of a joint effort between McLaren, Honda and Andretti Autosport.
The news has divided opinion in racing circles, but 1995 Indy 500 winner Villeneuve was delighted by it, himself having also raced in both F1 and Indy cars before.
“He will go for it, and that’s what’s great. That’s what makes it exciting. It’s typical gladiators and that’s what built the sport, made it what it is today,” Villeneuve told Reuters.
“So it’s good that there’s someone going back to its roots like this, it’s amazing.” Villeneuve did, however, add that Alonso’s chances of a rookie victory were “tiny”.
Villeneuve is one of just a handful of drivers in racing history to attempt all three races that make up motorsport’s ‘Triple Crown’: the Indy 500 (1994, 1995, 2014), the Monaco Grand Prix (1996-2006) and the 24 Hours of Le Mans (2007, 2008).
In his bid to become one of the greatest drivers of all-time, Alonso has set his sights on winning the Triple Crown, and Villeneuve is disappointed that more F1 drivers are not similarly-driven.
“What I find disappointing is how many drivers say ‘why bother, it’s only an oval race, it’s dangerous, why would I race there?’ Well, you’re a racer,” Villeneuve said.
“If you are a pure race fan and are passionate and a racer at heart, you have to be interested in Le Mans and Indy 500 as well as F1. It’s the three main things in racing.
“For drivers, it was always important. I finished second in Le Mans which is a shame, that really kills me. That hurts.”
Despite entering all three races, Villeneuve has completed just one leg of the Triple Crown – his Indy win in 1995 – with his best Monaco finish being P4 in 2001 with BAR.