Mario Andretti: Alonso a “shoo in” for top five finish

Mario Andretti says Fernando Alonso can land a top-five finish in the Indianapolis 500, provided the two-time Formula 1 World Champion does not make a mistake.

Mario Andretti: Alonso a “shoo in” for top five finish
Mario Andretti
Fernando Alonso, Andretti Autosport Honda
Fernando Alonso, Andretti Autosport Honda
Mario Andretti, Lotus 79 Ford
The car of Fernando Alonso, Andretti Autosport Honda
Fernando Alonso, Andretti Autosport Honda
Fernando Alonso, Andretti Autosport Honda
Mario Andretti, Michael Andretti, Zak Brown, McLaren CEO
Mario Andretti

Alonso is making his oval racing debut in the McLaren Honda Andretti entry, run by Michael Andretti’s Andretti Autosport team, and will start Sunday’s race fifth.

Mario Andretti, who started the Indy 500 29 times and won in 1969, told the latest edition of The Autosport Podcast that Alonso will be targeting victory.

“I think, barring mistakes, Fernando is a shoo-in for a top five. And you never know” Andretti told Autosport. “His mindset is to win, and that’s the mindset you should have no matter where you go as champion because if you don’t have that, if you starting analyzing the situation [saying] ‘Well maybe here I don’t have a real shot at it’, you’ve already lost.

“He’s coming here to do the job and to get maximum satisfaction out of it. Quite honestly, he has every reason to feel that confidence. I would not have been surprised if he were to have got on pole.”

Andretti believes that son Michael’s policy of offering all six of his drivers access to each other’s data has helped Alonso to progress quickly. He cited the example of former NASCAR champion Kurt Busch in 2014, who finished sixth on his sole IndyCar drive for Andretti Autosport, as evidence of the value of this.

“It’s Michael’s clear policy of an open book,” said Andretti. “You can look at the worksheet of every single driver, everything that’s going on, setups and everything.

“That’s a luxury, believe me, especially for someone who is here for the first time. Kurt Busch never raced a single-seater and took to it like a duck to water and did a very respectable sixth-place finish. And it wasn’t just by strategy; he was there.

“He played it very smart, he stayed about midfield most of the race, then he felt comfortable to start pushing and there he went.”

Andretti added that Alonso is not afraid of running in traffic at speeds of more than 220mph at Indianapolis. But he added that having experienced this only in practice, the race will be a new challenge.

“I watched him here just doing some race practice among 10, 12 cars and he’s not bashful, he’s not timid about going into a corner right on the other guy’s gearbox and that’s something not every driver is capable of doing or willing to do,” said Andretti.

“We’ll see how the race goes. When you’re practicing with cars around you, everybody is very kind to you. The race situation is going to be a little bit different once you are in competition. But at the same time, he seemed like he’s very capable of mixing it up, nothing startles him.”

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