Indy 500: Alonso can win race, says Gil de Ferran

Fernando Alonso
Fernando Alonso will start in the middle of the second row for Sunday's race
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Date: 25-28 May Venue: Circuit de Monaco
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Fernando Alonso can "absolutely" win the Indianapolis 500 this weekend, says 2003 Indy winner Gil de Ferran.

The Spaniard is missing the Monaco Grand Prix to race in the US and is replaced by Britain's Jenson Button.

The two-time Formula 1 champion has had an uncompetitive car at McLaren-Honda since 2015 but has qualified fifth for Sunday's race.

"Does Fernando have a chance to win the race this week? Absolutely," said Brazilian De Ferran.

"He has been competitive throughout the practices, he is in good shape, he is being supported by a great team but that's as far as I'm going to go," he added.

Alonso's strong showing at the Indy 500 so far has put the "smile back on his face", according to McLaren boss Zak Brown.

"He is loving it," added Brown, McLaren's executive director. "It has done that for everyone. It has been a put-a-smile-on-the-face experience."

Brown said Alonso had been frustrated to miss out on a place on the front row because of a small engine glitch in qualifying on Sunday.

"He was very happy to be very competitive but then that competitive spirit comes out: 'Damn, I could have been on the front row', but with a big smile on his face. That's been great," Brown said.

But he added there had been no discussions of what would be considered a good result.

"He'd rather there were 10 people who could win than two," Brown said. "I think he is enjoying the closeness of the competition.

"He is going to race for the win, for sure. But we have not discussed any expectations on what would be deemed good result.

"A strong finish, running at the front all day, walking away with a smile on your face, that he drove well and whether that's first, second, third, fourth, fifth.

"Anything outside the top five, you're not that excited. But a top five would be a great result."

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'Everything went fine' - Alonso happy with Indy 500 practice

Alonso has been guided through his first experience at the famous 230mph oval track by De Ferran.

The Brazilian said Alonso had the speed to win but it was a difficult race to predict because of the inherent unpredictability created by 33 cars racing closely at such high speeds on a 2.5-mile oval track with only four left-hand turns.

De Ferran said: "If I take myself as an example, I thought I should have won at least three of these and I thankfully ended up winning one.

"I was in the strongest position in 2001 and I finished second and the year I didn't think I was the strongest I ended up winning."

The 49-year-old said Alonso had done "an amazing job" since taking to the track at Indy last week.

"Very impressive," De Ferran said. "I suppose that is somewhat to be expected given his renowned greatness but he is really doing a great job.

"What impressed me in particular is not so much his amazing level of skill, but also his approach, his discipline, his work ethic, his emotional control, the speed he has adapted.

"Indy tests you in all sorts of different ways and he has really met every challenge with flying colours. He has been able to absorb all those little nuances and peculiarities of oval racing very quickly."

He said Alonso's biggest challenge in the race would be negotiating the traffic.

"Sometimes you have to put on the brave move and chuck yourself on the inside or outside," De Ferran said. "But most of the manoeuvres are really about timing yourself to perfection and seeing situations develop before they actually develop and position yourself to take advantage of that.

"So far he has adapted to and understood every new situation that has been thrown at him. By the end of it, he is going to be very sharp, that's for sure."

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