INDIANAPOLIS — McLaren’s highly anticipated return to the Indianapolis 500 got off to a brutal start Wednesday following Fernando Alonso’s crash on the second day of practice.
Alonso hit the Indianapolis Motor Speedway wall three times and heavily damaged the car McLaren built in its England factory when he lost control exiting the third turn. Alonso was battling as he followed Graham Rahal through the turn and his car smacked the wall.
His car shot across the track, through the grass and hit an interior wall, then back across the track for a third hit of the wall.
"I think it was just pure understeer that I didn’t expect," Alonso said. "I was running a bit close to another car and suddenly mid-corner I lost completely the front grip. I tried to lift off and avoid the wall. We worked quite a lot on the car and definitely now it’s quite damaged, so I feel sorry for the team and for my mistake."
McLaren spent most of opening day Tuesday battling electrical issues that forced the team to change both the alternator and wiring loom. Now McLaren has a damaged car and only two days until qualifying begins for the May 26 race. There are 36 entrants for the 33 spots in "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing" and Alonso was 32nd on the speed chart after the first day.
Now, McLaren must decide if it will attempt to rebuild its car or use the backup built by technical partner Carlin.
Alonso, the retired Formula One champion, is making his second appearance in the Indy 500 in his quest to win motorsports’ version of the Triple Crown. His entry this year is with McLaren, which is back at Indianapolis for the first time since the 1970s. It is an expected rehearsal for the team’s eventual fulltime return to the IndyCar Series, but this year the goal is to help Alonso add Indy to a resume that includes victories at Monaco and Le Mans.
Alonso ran Indy in 2017 for Andretti Autosport and stepped into a car capable of winning the race. He led laps and was a contender until his engine failed, bringing a halt to a nearly flawless month for the Spaniard at Indianapolis.
That Indy 500 was Alonso’s only race to date on an oval and his wreck Wednesday raised questions as to how crash-tested he is after a career spent racing primarily on road and street courses. Alonso in 2016 was in a spectacular F1 crash in Australia in which his car flipped twice and he wound up sidelined for a race with fractured ribs and a collapsed lung.