Fernando Alonso, McLaren, IndyCar, Texas Motor Speedway, 2019

Alonso should do full IndyCar season to improve Indy 500 chances – Pagenaud

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Fernando Alonso needs to commit to a full season of IndyCar to maximise his chances of taking a victory in the Indianapolis 500, according to this year’s winner.

Simon Pagenaud won the Indy 500 at his eighth attempt this year. He has been racing full-time in the series since 2012, and believes Alonso needs to do the same.

“It’s not easy to win Indy,” said Pagenaud. “It took me a few years. It took Tony Kanaan 13 years to make it happen. Ask Dario Franchitti, he’ll tell you.

“It’s one of the most difficult races to win because it’s once a year. It’s 500 miles, eight pit stops. You need a perfect team to do pit stops right, strategy to be perfect. You need the right engine that year, right team mates to help you set the car up.

“You can’t make mistakes on set-up otherwise you’ll be buried back there all day long. It’s a nightmare of a day when the car’s not good because you’re doing 400 [kilometres] an hour at the end of the straight and you’re following a fighter jet plane ahead of you with turbulence. So you’ve got to deal with all that.

“The temperature is a big problem too. The temperature rises, the car becomes very loose, the rear end slides a lot, it makes your life very complicated.”

Alonso has set himself the target of becoming the second driver in history to complete motorsport’s ‘triple crown’ by adding the Indy 500 to his victories in the Monaco Grand Prix and at the Le Mans 24 Hours. Pagenaud, who has also raced at Le Mans, says the Indy 500 is a much more competitive event.

Simon Pagenaud, IndyCar, Indianapolis 500, 2019
Pagenaud took eight attempts to with the Indy 500
“It’s just as complicated as winning Le Mans but imagine having 33 competitors just as good as you against you,” he said. “To me it’s probably the toughest race to win because of the competition and all the factors that come in play.

“Obviously it’s him, it’s his decision, his career, it’s what he feels is right. But to me I feel I need to be fully in, doing the full season with my team, knowing them and them knowing me, to have a chance to win Indy again and again.”

Alonso made his first attempt at the Indianapolis 500 with McLaren and Andretti in 2017, and led before retiring. However he failed to qualify in McLaren’s single-car entry this year.

Pagenaud goes into this weekend’s IndyCar season finale at Laguna Seca finale third in the championship, seeking to regain the title he previously won in 2016.

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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  • 10 comments on “Alonso should do full IndyCar season to improve Indy 500 chances – Pagenaud”

    1. Fred will try to buy his way to a win as he does in other series.

    2. He certainly should do a full season of Indy 500.

    3. Basically he is saying what everyone already knows…..
      Also he doesnt need a full season, already proved he can fight form victory.

      “You need a perfect team to do pit stops right, strategy to be perfect. You need the right engine that year, right team mates to help you set the car up.”
      Wow really? Its not like we didnt realize after we saw the difference between Alonsos first and second try…….

    4. I agree, Alonso should do a full season to give him the best shot. But also, on debut in 2017, if the engine didn’t give up on him, he did have a very serious shot – iirc he was actually ahead of Sato (the eventual winner) when he retired. He would’ve certainly finished right up there. Give him the right car and he will perform.

    5. I disagree, his goal is to win the Indy 500, racing just the ovals would help, but the street tracks would teach him nothing as the car is so different. Pagenaud mentioned having the right engine and team is required, but that can be bought and built up with other drivers.

    6. Of course he needs to run a full season if he wants a real chance to win the 500. I’d love to see how he does on the road courses. I think he’d be surprised how good the other drivers are. Everything else he is doing (Dakar, and basically nothing) is a waste of time.

    7. As Pagenaud correctly observed, all the right pieces need to be in place to give any driver a good chance of winning the Indy 500. A single-event entry will never get the best pit crew; the best guys will already be on full-season entries for championship-contending teams. Also the setup of the car is questionable since the engineers have such limited time to learn the driver’s preferences. The right team will get you 95% of the way there, but it takes that last little bit extra to win.

      Consider Helio Castroneves. He’s a 3-time Indy 500 winner, so no one can doubt he knows how to win this race, but since he stopped racing full time in Indycar, his two appearances in the 500 have produced his two worst finishes in over a decade.

      The Indy 500 is really two races in one: a 180-lap endurance race which sets the grid for a 20-lap sprint race to the finish. While Alonso ran well in his 1st Indy 500 entry, he really only participated in the 180-lap endurance portion of the event, when drivers are most concerned with keeping their car in one piece and hitting the fuel numbers necessary to make their pit strategy work. His performance there doesn’t really tell us much about his chances of getting to the front when it mattered. Due to his engine failure, we never really got to see how he would perform in the final sprint.

    8. He’s correct in terms of having a better chance of winning but for every driver like himself that has taken years to get a win there, there are some exceptions where a rookie has won it on his first attempt.

      Seems to me the one thing that can’t be controlled is a big chunk of luck – that can apply equally to veterans and one time rookies.

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