How does a two-time Formula 1 champion deal with the demands of Indianapolis? Quite well—but you knew that already. Even for someone of his stature, Alonso had to cope with a steep learning curve, and by the end of the first day managed incredible speeds. However, that speed did not come without new set of challenges, and a bit of violence.
Running at the oval is a new test entirely. Going flat in an 800-horsepower Indycar that near to the walls requires a form of mental discipline that borders on zen. So, Alonso tightened the belts and battled with his own instincts. “The speeds are so high, and you need to trust the car a lot when you approach the corner,” Alonso replied in a bemused tone. It seems the self-preservation instinct kicked in for Alonso, who afterwards told Robin Miller, “At the beginning, to be honest, the right foot was having its own brain—its own power!”
Making the Needed Adjustments
Between trying new lines and consulting with his engineers on setup changes, Alonso kept his cool. Even striking two absent-minded birds did not rattle the Spaniard’s cage. The same could not be said about the birds, who were reduced to a spray of feathers and bone as the papaya-orange Indycar drove through them.
To cope with a chassis deficiencies, Alonso adjusted his lines throughout the day. With more or less grip depending on the different tires used, he showed just what a talent he is by adjusting his approach, trimming his lines, and leaning appropriately on the car. By the end of his first 88 laps, Alonso found the guts, the confidence in his car, and the serenity to go flat, and snagged a striking 222.548 mph! Considering that’s with a medium-downforce setup to acclimate Alonso to the car, there’s still a good amount of speed in his pocket.
Opinions from the Outside
Alonso exchanged numerous e-mails with the team after testing each day, proving he’s completely committed to understanding the finer points of running an oval. Edwards supports this sort of obsessive behavior, claiming that “The way to make sure he is a contender is not to be confident about it.”
Gil de Ferran, the Brazilian Indycar star coaching Alonso along, suspects the track will “throw a curveball” before the end. Assuming an F1 driver who’s never stepped foot onto an oval, let alone Indianapolis, will be at the sharp end of the pack come race day is very hopeful. Nevertheless, Alonso— ever the consummate professional—remains both diligent and humble, has avoided injury, and absorbs information like a sponge to maximize the chances he has.
Committed entirely, Alonso will be able to handle whatever hiccups come his way. With any success, the Spaniard will become a household name in the United States, and then every teenage girl will have a poster of the Matador on their bedroom wall. At the very least, that will be decent compensation for his humbling experience in Indycar.