Two-time Formula One World Champion Fernando Alonso returned to a high-speed oval on Tuesday at Texas Motor Speedway. It was the first time he’s been on an oval in an Indy car since the 101st Indianapolis 500 in 2017.
Alonso and the McLaren IndyCar team had a private test at the 1.5-mile, high-banked oval in Fort Worth, Texas as the team prepares for the 103rd Indianapolis 500 on May 26.
“It was great obviously,” Alonso said Tuesday from Texas. “It’s only the first couple of laps with the car. We are taking care of everything slowly with the speed. I drove in Barber (Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala.) last year in the Indy car, but it’s good to be back on the oval with a very specific setup — this car that turns left self-steering a little bit.
“It’s some weird feeling for me to try to get used to with the speedway especially with a lot of banking on the corner, especially Turns 3 and 4. It’s different than Indianapolis but hopefully a good preparation for us.”
TMS is a high-banked oval compared to the flat, four-cornered 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It was a unique experience to the Formula One great from Spain compared to his first oval race in the Indy 500 in 2017.
“It’s just about getting comfort in the car,” Alonso said. “It’s a new car, new team so in terms of seat position, headrest, pedals, steering wheel preferences I think all these things we can start now the work.
“I think it is quite important to set up everything as a team, who does what in the team, also the pit wall. The facility is completely new for everyone (and) try to solve as many problems here and at the open test on the 24th(of April at Indianapolis Motor Speedway) and getting ready for the Indianapolis 500.”
Because it was a private team test, speeds were not released. This was also a test designed to help the McLaren team familiarize themselves with the Dallara/Chevrolet combination. In 2017, they were a partner team with Andretti Autosport and used a Honda.
This year, McLaren is getting engineering and technical advice from Carlin.
The aerodynamic rules have changed since 2017 and Alonso was asked to compare how the universal aero kit handles on the oval.
“So far it’s too early to say because I am not up to speed,” he said. “I guess listening to everyone in the last year I think there will be less downforce. They can be more trickier to drive, especially followings. Today’s not a problem because I am alone. But I guess it’s going to be challenging, especially this year I am not with the Andretti, let’s say, environment.
“It’s all by ourselves this year.”
Alonso and McLaren will participate in an “Open Test” at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on April 24, along with the other teams and drivers entered in the 103rd Indianapolis 500.