McLaren’s Fernando Alonso says he’s “not afraid” of the challenge and dangers of high-speed oval racing when he starts his first Indianapolis 500 next month.
Speaking to the press after the announcement that he will skip the Monaco Grand Prix to race at Indy this year, Alonso says he is well aware of the new driving techniques that he will have to learn on the 2.5-mile speedway, where speeds hit 230mph.
“It’s very exciting, very challenging as well, because we know I’m not ready – now – if the race was tomorrow,” he quipped. “I have a lot of things to learn in a very short period of time. It’s so challenging but it’s very exciting as well.
“It is definitely a completely different skills that you need, different driving technique that I’ll have to adapt myself. And in the middle of this period there is three Formula 1 Grands Prix. So let’s see.
“The average speed is very, very high, close to the wall, a lot of slipstreaming with different cars around. [All] things I’ll have to get used to.
“But I’m not afraid of the challenge.”
Watch Alonso’s interview…
Unconcerned by high-speed risks
Alonso denied that he was taking a risk by switching away from road racing to race on ovals, where a number of top-line drivers have been killed in recent years – including Dan Wheldon and Justin Wilson.
“No, it’s not a concern,” said Alonso. “The standards that Indy has right now are great, and the studies behind the cars, the walls, all the safety equipment – it’s great.
“It’s probably as advanced as Formula 1. We are not afraid. Not concerned about this, and I’m sure nothing will happen.”
Can he emulate Mansell’s oval speed?
When Motorsport.tv’s Peter Windsor pointed out to Alonso that fellow F1 World Champion convert Nigel Mansell adapted to ovals very quickly, he replied: “I’m curious. I cannot lie to you that I was watching a lot of races, but I’m trying to listen to all the interviews with the rookies, like [Rubens] Barrichello. Things that may be useful to me.
“Until you’re in the car, feeling the speed in the corners and the cars around, I won’t have a clear picture.”