Indianapolis 500: Fernando Alonso to start in 26th place

Formula 1
Fernando Alonso

Double Formula 1 world champion Fernando Alonso will start the Indianapolis 500 in 26th place.

The 39-year-old Spaniard posted a four-lap qualifying speed of 228.678mph in his Arrow McLaren car. American Marco Andretti set the pace at 231.351mph.

Alonso said: “Did not have the speed but happy with the run. Some interesting people around our position.

“Always very intense for four laps at Indy! Now one day less for the big one. Race car felt good.”

It is Alonso’s third attempt at Indy as he aims to become only the second man after Graham Hill to win the ‘triple crown’ of Monaco Grand Prix, Le Mans and Indy.

Alonso was a contender for victory on his Indy 500 debut in 2017, driving a McLaren-branded Andretti Autosport car, but failed to qualify last year in a one-off attempt by McLaren, which the team admitted to mishandling.

McLaren have this year set up their own IndyCar team, who are racing in the championship with Mexican Patricio ‘Pato’ O’Ward and American Oliver Askew, who qualified 15th and 21st on Saturday.

Saturday’s qualifying session sets positions 10 to 30 on the grid for the race, which is on 23 August at the historic 2.5-mile superspeedway.

The fastest nine drivers compete for pole position on Sunday afternoon, while the slowest three on Saturday run again to decide the order of the final row of the grid.

Andretti led a one-two-three-four for the Andretti Autosport team run by his father Michael Andretti, ahead of Americans Ryan Hunter-Reay and Alex Rossi and Canadian James Hinchliffe.

After a promising start over the first two days of practice, Alonso crashed late on Thursday afternoon, sliding sideways into the wall at Turn Four after he ran too low on the inside of the corner and lost grip.

He was never competitive in qualifying trim either on the final day of pre-qualifying practice, known as ‘Fast Friday’, or on Saturday.

Arrow McLaren, an affiliate of the McLaren F1 team, use Chevrolet engines, while Honda-engined cars dominated in qualifying. Only one Chevrolet-engined car was in the top 12.

Alonso qualified one place lower than last year’s winner, Frenchman Simon Pagenaud, who drives for the leading Penske team with Chevrolet engines. Another former winner driving for Penske, Australian Will Power, was 22nd. Three-time winner Helio Castroneves, from Brazil, was 28th.

Five-time Indycar champion Scott Dixon, who won Indy in 2008, was fifth fastest in his Honda-engined Ganassi car, and former F1 drivers Takuma Sato, the 2017 winner, and Marcus Ericsson ninth and 11th, also with Honda engines.

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