Fernando Alonso, McLaren SP, IndyCar, Indianapolis 500, 2020

Alonso reveals clutch failure led to 21st-place finish on Indy 500 return

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Fernando Alonso revealed a clutch problem on his car slowed his progress during the Indianapolis 500, after finishing 21st in his third attempt at the race.

The McLaren SP driver said he and his team “didn’t have one lap of kindness” over the 500-mile event.

“We were struggling from the very beginning with the balance of the car with a lot of oversteer,” said Alonso. “We kept changing that balance in the pit stops, reducing the front flap, doing tyre adjustments, and then we started to be happy with the car.”

Having qualified 26th after a crash in practice, Alonso made up some ground during the 200-lap race until a clutch problem spoiled his afternoon.

“We were up to 15th around lap 110, which is where we wanted to be. We spent half the race going from 26th to 15th and then we had a clutch problem on the car that we didn’t know how to solve.

“We finished the race without the clutch, so from that point on every pit stop we had to push the car, engage the gear and go. That cost us a lap and unfortunately, we kept that lap down until the end and we could not achieve anything more.”

Alonso made his third start in the race which he failed to qualify for last year, and retired from on his debut in 2017.

“I’m happy to finish the race, cross the line and have one 500 miles in the pocket, that’s the positive thing,” he said. “The negative is that we were out of contention very quickly with the clutch problem.

“Anyway, I think the Arrow McLaren SP team was fantastic during the race. The strategy and pit stops meant we were always gaining positions. I’m very proud of the work we’ve done over the last couple of weeks. We tried to race, but luck was not with us today, but I’m proud of the effort from everyone in the team.”

Alonso has said he will not return to the Indianapolis 500 in the next two seasons while he races for Renault in Formula 1, meaning his next start at the Brickyard will not come before 2023.

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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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  • 30 comments on “Alonso reveals clutch failure led to 21st-place finish on Indy 500 return”

    1. He was in 15th place halfway because he was yet to stop. He didn’t just lose time during pitstops. His pace was off all race.

      1. That’s what I thought, although Indy is really hard to follow. The live time tables are terrible. I saw the guys that started around him overtaking people but never Alonso. Very dissapointing because clearly he has the ability, but today he didn’t look good

      2. his 4th pitstop was 1 minute long

      3. I’m pretty sure he was on the same strategy as the guys in front of him at that point.

    2. The idea that a champion like Fernando Alonso is happy with 21st place is laughable. I hate hearing corporate speak like that. Much prefer him to be honest and say something like “completely gutted to be so far back, despite the clutch issue we were off the pace and it’s not where I want to be” etc. I don’t think we’ve seen the last of Fernando and Indy…

      1. It’s confusing. He seemed in great shape ahead of the race until the crash in practice. After that, never in the top 20 again. I keep thinking that a small accident like that shouldn’t matter, but could it be that some pieces couldn’t be replaced? Otherwise I don’t understand how he went from the best Arrow McLaren to the worse by far. He didn’t look good at all today

        1. GtisBetter (@)
          24th August 2020, 13:14

          If you crash in a big way, you are doomed. They spent months building this car in the shop perfecting it for this event. You can’t just make the same car. You can build one very close, but the tiniest difference means you are in the middle or at the back.

        2. Yeah I saw it that way too

      2. Regarding corporate speak, I believe that Alonso would have been in better machinery had he not uttered definitively non-corporate speak in the past. So maybe he is learning.

        (As most of us are enjoying living in societies with free speech, we should not forget that free speech does not mean that what we say is devoid of consequence, especially in the workplace, cue corporate speak)

        1. He had a teammate finish 6th and one that led the race for a bit so his machinery wasn’t too bad. The big thing I keep hearing is the cars are hard to setup with the aeroscreen.

        2. @tango I have been expecting the new positive Alonso to come out for his last F1 stint. For sure he’s been kept awake at night bemoaning himself for previous costly outburst and determined not to blow any chances this time round, but still quite likely he will start venting once he realizes there will never be a Mercedes drive after a few frustrating years at Renault in the midfield. At least the first year will be fun to see the PR speak from him.

    3. Team boss said damaged parts specific to Indy would be difficult to replace and get car back up to to speed after accident

    4. Was that me or this race seemed a bit less lively than usual? I am not an avid follower of Indy to say that with any authority. But I remember a lot movement in the past. I heard commentators talk about the aeroscreens making it more difficult to overtake because of the turbulence they generate

      1. the last races with this new aero package were terrible. The last fun one was that of Alonso’s first entry.

        People complain about boring races at Paul Ricard, but those at least only last 1 hour and a half. Indy 500 is 3 full hours of boredom and yellow flags. And 4 or 5 fast cars, racing for the win. While the rest can only watch, including all Chevy powered cars.

      2. @ajpennypacker The racing on the bigger ovals hasn’t been great since the current aero package was introduced in 2018 as the cars aren’t punching as big a hole in the air as they were before. With the aero packages run from 2012-2017 the tow was very effective as the cars were producing a lot more drag so you were getting a pretty big slipstream effect from quite a long way back & that created some good racing because cars could tow upto each other easier.

        On top of that they have kind of followed F1 in producing a tyre that wears faster than was the case in the past & the result on the bigger ovals has tended to be that you get 5 or so laps at the start of a stint where cars can run closely but as the tyres wear the field gets strung out. They seemed more durable this year than they have been the past few but there still not as durable as they used to be when you could push them pretty much flat out all stint on the larger ovals.

        I don’t want a return to the sort of pack racing seen in the IRL days but creating a package that creates a bigger tow while also giving them a tyre that holds up for more of a stint would really help the racing on the larger/faster ovals.

    5. You’re spot on. This was not an impressive performance from Alonso by any means of the imagination.

      1. Over the hill. A return to F1 will be as far from wise as you can get.

    6. Boring race.
      I only watched to see that pace car driver crash again. But unfortunately that didn’t happen.

      The tribute to Alonso was very nice though; car crashing to award win to teammate.

      1. When you have nothing to say, it’s better to keep your mouth shut.

        1. If only you would heed that advice.

      2. Don’t you have other threads to hijack?

        1. @budchekov, I’m sorry (for you) that you might be offended.
          But as I started this thread, it cannot be me who is hyjacking it.

          And as far as my comment is concerned: I stand by my ‘boring race’ opinion, and I can confirm that out of boredom I was thinking about what else could happen which a shared above in a sarcastical manner.

          1. Delusional too, this thread was started by ‘SpaFrancorchamps’ on Aug 23rd.

            1. Nope, only when you react to a comment you create/extend a thread.
              My comment was independent (hence not ‘thread’) to the previous comments.

    7. I was hearing the radio stream between Alonso and the mechanics on the official app (which btw is free globally unlike F1). The clutch problem was mentioned. But the car itself was slow. He was mostly taking a middle line as was seen in the onboard camera and was overtaken from inside as well as outside. A decent job with the machinery he had.

    8. *facepalm*
      Alonso can’t stop saying something like this, can he?

      On the other hand I was slowed (well, actually prevented) by my IT career to get into racing altogether. Otherwise I would have won Indy with closed eyes!

    9. Honestly when will Alonso catch a break! For the third time he has been let down by his car at the Indy!!!

      All of the people doubting Alonso’s pace, you guys are just hating on him cause he’s returning to F1 next year and is gonna take all of the attention away from your favourites.

      Fernando has shown numerous times in every possible form of Motorsport that if you give him the car he will drive circles around the rest of the field! Hamilton is the only driver on earth who could match Alonso in any Motorsport! Btw im sure everyone knows i am not a Hamilton fan but it is simply fact.

      1. Clutch issues aside, he didn’t really seem to have the pace to compete for victory anyway.
        Glad Takuma won though, great result. My money was on Dixon to win though!

    10. I mean, it’s always *something* with Alonso, isn’t it?

    11. Alonso is the most overrated driver ever. But still .. he looks cute

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