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Gutierrez: ‘Complex’ ovals will take time to adapt to

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For the first time since what is now the INDYCAR Grand Prix in mid-May, the No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda will have the same driver on board for consecutive race weekends, as Esteban Gutierrez continues at Iowa after also being at Road America.

Gutierrez will be in his UNIFIN-backed car at Iowa Speedway this weekend for the Iowa Corn 300, for what will be his oval debut.

The Mexican driver has raced on a street course at Belle Isle Park in Detroit and a natural terrain road course at Road America but now steps into his biggest challenge yet, running on the 0.894-mile Iowa Speedway.

His oval debut comes after a test last week with fellow rookie Ed Jones, and Gutierrez was impressed by the challenge of running flat out on an oval.

“It’s great to approach the race weekend having done some testing at the track. Obviously, it’s a completely new racing style for me. An oval seems very basic from the outside but it’s actually quite complex,” Gutierrez admitted in the team’s pre-race release.

“I really enjoyed it at the test and I’m very excited to do my first oval race at Iowa. It will definitely take some time for me to adapt, especially racing with other cars around. That will be an interesting experience.

“I’m looking forward to it. It was really fun to drive on the oval, I think it’s very nice how you can really feel every change, every movement in the car because you are on the limit for so long that you are able to feel everything from the car. It’s given me a lot more knowledge about the Indy car.”

Coverage for qualifying of the Iowa Corn 300 takes place at 3 p.m. ET on Saturday with race coverage Sunday at 5 p.m. ET.

Fernando Alonso will decide this summer whether to pursue F1 again

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Fernando Alonso said he will determine by this summer if he would consider a return to Formula One next season.

After announcing Tuesday that he will return to Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May with Arrow McLaren Racing SP, Alonso said “right now the Indy 500 will take all of my concentration” but left the door open for F1 in 2021.

“In my case, probably during the summer period, I’ll make a decision on 2021 if Formula One is still appealing to me,” Alonso told IndyCar on NBC announcer Leigh Diffey in an interview (watch the video above). “The 2021 rules (in F1) are definitely a step forward, and hopefully things can be more mixed and not only three teams capable of winning races. So all this factors into play. I may consider that possibility.”

Alonso won consecutive Formula One championships in 2005-06 with Renault. He has 32 victories in an F1 career that started in 2001 and also includes stints at Ferrari and McLaren.

His last victory on the circuit was May 12, 2013 in Barcelona. He is winless in his most recent 110 starts, including the past 77 races with McLaren in 2015-18.

The Guardian recently reported that McLaren CEO Zak Brown said Alonso wouldn’t be returning to F1 with the team.

Alonso also told Diffey that returning to F1 from a two-season absence wouldn’t necessarily be linked to McLaren’s performance.

“I think they did well last year, and hopefully they make another step forward and close to the top three because they deserve it and are a fantastic team,” he said.

Though he is optimistic about more parity, Alonso said six-time champion Lewis Hamilton should be a favorite for the 2020 title based on preseason testing in which Mercedes turned heads with a new steering system.

“It seemed Mercedes is still quite competitive,” Alonso said. “They show enormous potential on the development side and on the progress from one year to next. Formula One is impossible to predict because many things happen in season.

“At the starting point, (Mercedes) are the favorites. When you have Lewis in the car and Mercedes with the potential they have, they have to be No. 1 probably.”