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Reports: Honda nixes Fernando Alonso racing for Andretti at Indy 500

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If two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso makes a return to the Indianapolis 500 this May, he won’t be with Andretti Autosport, according to multiple reports.

RACER.com reported Sunday that Alonso and Andretti Autosport were nearing a deal to reunite at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but Honda put the brakes on the arrangement. RACER reported that the deal, which also would have included some road-course races, was blocked by Honda’s global headquarters in Japan after being sent for review by Honda Performance Development.

Citing an unnamed source, the Indianapolis Star confirmed the RACER report later Sunday.

The news comes after several years of hard feelings between Alonso and Honda. The engine manufacturer returned to Formula One in 2015 by forming a partnership with McLaren, whom Alonso was driving for at the time.

But the team experienced several poor results and engine performance issues, leading to a widely-publicized incident in which a frustrated Alonso referred to the Honda powerplant as a “GP2 engine” (a reference to F1’s feeder series) over his radio during the 2015 Japanese Grand Prix.

Alonso still made his Indianapolis 500 debut in 2017 in an Andretti Honda, leading 27 laps before finishing 24th because of an engine failure.

After retiring from F1 in 2018, Alonso returned to Indy with McLaren last year, but Honda reportedly blocked Alonso and McLaren from using one of its engines. Alonso failed to qualify in a Chevy for the 2019 Indy 500. He since has left McLaren after serving as a brand ambassador.

If he is limited to Chevrolet options again for the May 24 race at Indy, Alonso will face a challenge to find a high-profile seat. Team Penske (four cars) and Ed Carpenter Racing (three) likely are at their max entries for the 104th running of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.

Arrow McLaren SP, Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, DragonSpeed, Juncos Racing and A.J. Foyt Racing would seem the options for Alonso if he were to continue his pursuit of capturing the final leg of auto racing’s “Triple Crown” (having already won the 24 Hours of Le Mans and Monaco Grand Prix).

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Max Verstappen shows speed in Austria; Lewis Hamilton lacking pace

Leonhard Foeger/Pool via Getty Images
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SPIELBERG, Austria — Red Bull driver Max Verstappen posted the fastest time Friday, and six-time Formula One champion Lewis Hamilton lacked pace in the second practice session for the Styrian Grand Prix.

Verstappen was 0.043 seconds quicker than Valtteri Bottas – Hamilton’s teammate at Mercedes – and 0.217 ahead of Racing Point driver Sergio Perez.

“The car already feels better than last week, the balance is a lot nicer and we have made a good step,” said Verstappen, who did not finish last Sunday’s season-opening Austrian GP after starting from second.

“It is too early to say how we are looking against Mercedes, but we are quite happy. We have tried a few different directions to understand the car a bit more and we are heading the right way.”

Hamilton was only sixth fastest, about 0.7 seconds slower than Verstappen. Hamilton spent a chunk of time in the garage while his team worked on his car.

“It was quite far off, so there’s a lot of work to do in the background to figure it out,” he said. “Others out there are quick and Valtteri’s obviously got good pace.”

Despite adding a new front wing to its car, struggling Ferrari had a dismal afternoon.

Charles Leclerc was only ninth quickest and 1 second slower than Verstappen, while teammate Sebastian Vettel lagged about 2 seconds behind Verstappen in 16th.

Daniel Ricciardo lost control of his Renault car early into the second session, swerving left off the track and thudding backward into a protective tire wall. He climbed out unharmed, other than a slight limp, but the left rear tire was mangled and the car was lifted off the track by a crane.

Alexander Albon spun twice, the Red Bull driver’s second spin taking him right off the track and into gravel.

Earlier, Perez was fastest in the first practice ahead of Verstappen and Bottas, with Hamilton fourth quickest and Vettel only 10th in sunny conditions.

That session was briefly interrupted when Nicholas Latifi’s Williams car pulled over to the side with a gearbox issue.

The incident brought out yellow flags, forcing drivers to slow down. But McLaren driver Lando Norris overtook Pierre Gasly’s AlphaTauri and got a three-place grid penalty for Sunday’s race.

Norris, 20, finished third at the Austrian GP last weekend, becoming the youngest British driver in F1 history to get on the podium and third youngest in F1.

The upcoming race is changing names from last week but is at the same track. It is surrounded by the Styrian mountains.

A third and final practice will be held on Saturday morning before qualifying in the afternoon, with heavy rain and storms in the forecast.

If third practice and qualifying are washed out, drivers take their grid positions from where they placed in second practice.

“It would definitely suck if we didn’t get to qualify,” said Hamilton, who started fifth and finished fourth last weekend. “It would make it challenging.”

However, qualifying also could be moved to Sunday morning.

“I don’t expect to be on pole position with this (practice) lap,” Verstappen said.