By Frank Pingue
(Reuters) – Fernando Alonso said on Wednesday he is not yet comfortable with oval racing as the Spanish driver races to cram years of learning into a few weeks of preparation for this year’s Indianapolis 500.
Alonso, a two-times Formula One world champion who only settled into the cockpit of an IndyCar for the first time two weeks ago, said he has plenty of work to do before being ready for the May 28 race.
“Happy where I am now … but definitely not comfortable,” Alonso told reporters ahead of Wednesday’s practice at the sprawling 2.5 mile (4.02 km) oval speedway.
Alonso, 35, had his first test session in an IndyCar two weeks ago and on Monday during his first official practice set the pace in the rookie orientation session with a speed of 221.634 miles per hour.
He then got a taste of what competing in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” is like on Tuesday as nearly all 33 cars were on the track at once for what is known as ‘Happy Hour.’
Speeding around the track in traffic gave Alonso a closer glimpse into oval racing and he said he was starting to get used to what he described as a strange feeling given the different technique needed to drive an IndyCar.
“Obviously if you develop your whole career in the Formula One in Europe, you come here, in the oval racing, the car felt not natural to drive because, you know, the car turns left by itself,” said Alonso. “That’s a little bit strange when you approach turn one in the first lap.
“But I had a good preparation in the simulator, a lot of information from the team in the last couple of weeks. So I think I arrive a little bit prepared for the feeling that I was supposed to have.”
Alonso flew directly to Indianapolis from Barcelona after a 12th place finish at his home Spanish Grand Prix on Sunday ahead of what has been a whirlwind few days.
“The learning laps yesterday in traffic were very useful. I’m on the simulator in the mornings, on the car here in the afternoons. So plenty of time, plenty of running,” said Alonso.
“Not ready yet, but I think I will (be) for qualifying in the race.”
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Larry Fine)