Alexander Rossi slowest in opening practice for finale at Laguna Seca

Leave a comment

MONTEREY, Calif – Rookie of the Year candidate Colton Herta may have been the fastest driver in the opening practice session for the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey Friday morning, but the story of the day so far at Laguna Seca Raceway has been the driver who ranked dead last.

Championship contender Alexander Rossi posted the slowest lap of the 24 drivers entered in this weekend’s race, with a best time of 1 minute, 12.9932 seconds around the 11-turn, 2.238-mile road course that was 2.2597 seconds behind Herta. 

Sunday’s season finale at Laguna Seca will determine the championship among four contenders. Josef Newgarden leads Rossi by 41 points with Simon Pagenaud and Scott Dixon also in the hunt.

Andretti Autosport representatives declined an interview request for Rossi following the session, though Team Chief Operating Officer Rob Edwards confirmed to NBC Sports’ Marty Snider that the No. 27 Honda spent the majority of the session on pit road due to an unspecified on-board hardware issue, which Rossi later confirmed to be a broken bolt. The 27-year-old California native completed only four laps in the first session, the fewest of all drivers.

At the top of the board, Herta’s fellow rookie of the year contenders, rookies Felix Rosenqvist (-0.0719 seconds) and Santino Ferrucci (-0.1502 seconds), were second and third fastest, respectfully. Portland winner Will Power ended the session in fourth, and Zach Veach was fifth.

Simon Pagenaud was the fastest of the championship contenders, ending the session in sixth. Series points leader Josef Newgarden ended the session ninth fastest, while Scott Dixon finished the session in 14th.

Live coverage of Practice 2 for the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey begins later this evening at 5:10 p.m. ET on NBC Sports Gold.

Click here for full practice results

Follow Michael Eubanks on Twitter 

Fernando Alonso will decide this summer whether to pursue F1 again

Leave a comment

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.”