FORT WORTH, Texas –Verizon IndyCar Series drivers are embracing the chance to race against two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso in the 101st Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil on May 28.
The 35-year-old Spaniard, who drives for McLaren-Honda in Formula One, will race a sixth entry for Andretti Autosport.
The 32-time Formula One race winner will join former F1 competitors Alexander Rossi and Takuma Sato at Andretti. Rossi and Alonso battled over the last five races of 2015, most notably in an intense fight for points at a rain-soaked race at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, before Rossi joined the Verizon IndyCar Series last season and won the 100th edition of the Indianapolis 500 as a rookie
“I think it’s great for INDYCAR, amazing for the series, the 500, and everyone involved at Andretti Autosport,” Rossi said today at INDYCAR’s open test at Texas Motor Speedway.
“It’s going to be awesome to have him as a teammate. He is someone I’ve looked up to for my whole life and career.”
Despite being the defending champion of the famed event, the 25-year-old Californian will be looking to pay it forward and help Alonso as much as possible.
“The whole team works together,” Rossi said “That was one of the things that was a huge help for me last year with Marco (Andretti) and Ryan (Hunter-Reay), who was a previous winner of the Indy 500. The team is an open book and, any questions that he has, we will help him with. You know, the goal is to have six Andretti Autosport cars that can win the race.
“Hats off to McLaren for even allowing it in the first place. It was a no-brainer for Honda, so I think that’s cool. It adds not only a huge boost to the series, but to the race, to Honda as a manufacturer and us as a team. I’m very excited for the month of May to get here.”
A native Hoosier, Ed Carpenter believes Alonso’s entry gives added luster to “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” for all the motorsports world.
“I think it speaks to the importance to the Indy 500 that a guy like Alonso wants to be a part of it,” said Carpenter, a two-time Indy 500 pole sitter. “The 500 has always been a world-class event showcasing the best in the world, so I think it makes sense for him to come over and do it. I look forward to racing against him. It’s very similar to when (NASCAR driver) Kurt Busch was with us a few years back.
“But I think it just goes to show how special of an event it is that a guy like that is missing Monaco, which is their crown jewel, to come run the Indy 500. It just shows you the significance of that race, not just in our sport, but in all of motorsports.”
Juan Pablo Montoya competed with Alonso in Formula One and is looking forward to doing so again this May. Montoya will drive a fifth Team Penske entry in both the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the IMS road course May 13 and the Indy 500 on the oval on May 28.
“I think it’s great that Fernando is competing in the Indianapolis 500,” Montoya said. “It’s good for INDYCAR and motorsports in general. Anytime a driver gets the opportunity to do something a little different than what they’ve done, it adds another layer to that event.
“The Indy 500 obviously is a premier event with a rich history and this will certainly add to it,” Montoya added. “I really look forward to competing against him again.”
Johnny Rutherford was the last driver to win for McLaren in the Indianapolis 500, in 1974 and ’76. The retired great is eager to see how Alonso fares.
“He’s a two-time world champion and anytime you can race those guys from all over the world, beat them and win, that makes you special,” Rutherford said. “It will be interesting to see. I’ve seen in my time a lot of foreign drivers come over, with only a third or half of them making it and the others throw their hands up and walk away. There have been a lot of good champions from Formula One that have said, ‘This is not for me.’”
Winners of 11 of the last 13 Borg-Warner Trophies, Art St. Cyr, president of Honda Performance Development, added his thoughts on the bolstered lineup.
“Obviously, we’re delighted to have Fernando Alonso join Honda for the Indianapolis 500,” St. Cyr said. “It strengthens our overall effort to win a 12th ‘500’, and is a great addition to the race for fans of motorsport worldwide. This accomplishment is truly a reflection of Honda’s global motorsports footprint. No company, outside of Honda, could join Andretti Autosport, McLaren and Fernando Alonso in a united effort to compete in the Indianapolis 500. We warmly welcome Fernando to the HPD family and eagerly look forward to working with him in May.”