Fernando Alonso/No.66 McLaren Racing Chevrolet had the first accident during practice for the 103rd Indianapolis 500. He hit the Turn Three walls at 12:34pm while he was running sixteenth of 36 drivers, behind Graham Rahal/No.15 United Rentals Rahal Letterman Linage Racing Honda. Alonso is not hurt, he got out of the car on his own power, with a smile; but, as per protocol for anyone who hits the wall, he was checked out at the Medical Center. The car came back on the rollback truck, looking worse for the wear.
Alonso said “It was understeer on the car, and even if I lifted the throttle on the entry of the corner, it was not enough, and I lost completely the front aero. The wall came too close and too quickly. Unfortunately it happened today. We will lose a little bit of running time again. I’m sorry for the team, but we will learn and hopefully we will come back stronger tomorrow. I’m disappointed and sad for the team and for the guys.
“We worked quite a lot on the car and definitely now it’s quite damaged, so I feel sorry for the team and for my mistake. We will learn from this and hopefully tomorrow we’re back on track and back stronger.”
Alonso said the car wasn’t loose. “No, I think it was just pure understeer that I didn’t expect. I was running a bit close to another car and suddenly mid-corner I lost completely the front grip. I tried to lift off and avoid the wall.”
After the car was parked in the garage, McLaren Sporting Director Gil de Ferran said that the team would make a decision in an hour or so as to rebuilding their primary McLaren-built car or go to a backup car from Carlin, which isn’t finished yet.
It took less than an hour for the team to indicate they would be rebuilding their car.
The ongoing track session stopped for cleanup, and there was a mass exodus from the pit lane to the garages. It was a natural break for lunch. The track was down for 25 minutes. It was about 70 degreesF with track temperature of over 100. There wasn’t much of a breeze.
Alonso said his Wednesday progress “felt much better than yesterday. Definitely we were moving in the right direction. Small steps that we learned today that hopefully we can bring for next time. I’m sorry for the guys.”
Alonso was philosophical about his mindset now that there was a lot of work to be done. “Nothing you can do. These things happen in motorsport. Better today than on the 26th. Let’s see what we can do tomorrow.” He had run 46 laps before the accident.
It was a crowd scene in the garages, even before the tow truck arrived. People started running to the McLaren garage as soon as the accident occurred. Many media hot-footed it through Gasoline Alley, and all the TV folks arrived on their golf carts. The ubiquitous Yellow Shirts with whistles showed up to direct traffic, keeping everyone on the opposite side of the garages. In true F1-fashion, as soon as the race car was off-loaded, the garage doors immediately came down. McLaren is the only team with a privacy screen, which is so common in F1. Meanwhile, down the road from McLaren, all the NTT IndyCar Scrutineers were closely observing the whole scene.
Perhaps it was a bit ironic that a loose dangling body panel said “A whiter smile faster.”