Alonso en­joy­ing ev­ery minute of Indy500

New Straits Times - - Sport -

INDIANAPOLIS: There is no mis­tak­ing who the head­liner is at this year’s Indianapolis 500 as Fernando Alonso hogged the spot­light on Me­dia Day at the Brick­yard on Thurs­day.

Alonso, the twice For­mula One world cham­pion who is skip­ping the Monaco Grand Prix to chase Indy 500 glory, has pro­vided a cap­ti­vat­ing sto­ry­line that has dom­i­nated the build-up to to­mor­row’s race.

The Spa­niard’s pres­ence has over­shad­owed just about ev­ery­thing and ev­ery­one at the sprawl­ing speed­way, in­clud­ing Me­dia Day where 32 other driv­ers were left to watch the Alonso Show.

While a me­dia mob sur­rounded the podium Alonso was put on, with two of IndyCar’s big­gest stars flank­ing him, three-time Indy 500 win­ner He­lio Cas­tron­eves and pole sit­ter Scott Dixon were left in the shade.

“It’s a great story,” Dixon said smil­ing. “He’s one of the best driv­ers of all time so it is great to have him over here.”

Zak Brown, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the McLaren F1 team who put to­gether the deal to free Alonso, said the Spa­niard had owned the Indy spot­light but it was the ris­ing tide lift­ing all boats.

“I bet there’s more peo­ple that know Scott Dixon to­day than be­fore pole in­ter­na­tion­ally,” said Brown. “Ob­vi­ously, Scott is a su­per­star, but this will have only ex­posed more peo­ple to him.

“I think it’s a good story. It’s a huge story but I think it’s good for ev­ery­body.”

The jump from For­mula One to IndyCar and oval rac­ing has been stark but the real cul­ture shock for Alonso has come away from the track.

While For­mula One driv­ers are safely clois­tered from fans, with the ex­cep­tion of the A-lis­ters who stroll the pad­dock stop­ping by team hos­pi­tal­ity suites to snack on caviar and sip Cham­pagne, in IndyCar they are con­stantly in the pub­lic eye.

Me­dia Day was a new, if not jar­ring, ex­pe­ri­ence for Alonso who was plopped on a podium to an­swer ques­tions for an hour, an ex­pe­ri­ence prob­a­bly as gru­elling as any he faces on the track.

Carb Day yes­ter­day was the last time Alonso would be in the car be­fore to­mor­row’s race but his work will be far from done.

There is the Indy 500 pa­rade to­day and a morn­ing au­to­graph ses­sion where he is likely to de­velop writer’s cramp. There is also a long list of spon­sor­ship obli­ga­tions in­clud­ing the An­dretti Indy Gala.

“You watch the F1 guys, they are not as ac­ces­si­ble, you can’t talk to them, no au­to­graph ses­sions,” said Brazil­ian Tony Kanaan, the 2013 Indy win­ner. “I told him (Alonso), ‘Man you are go­ing to be busy.

“Hope­fully he lis­tened to me, if he didn’t he’s al­ready fig­ured that out.

It has cer­tainly not been a typ­i­cal week for Alonso.

He vis­ited an Indianapolis school on Wed­nes­day and was part of the Indy 500 me­dia blitz that saw the 33-car field scat­ter across the United States and Canada on Tues­day to pro­mote to­mor­row’s race.

Alonso said he has en­joyed ev­ery mo­ment of his Indy ex­pe­ri­ence but it is not some­thing that would work in the se­cre­tive high­tech world of For­mula One.

“The close con­tact with the fans here is good. It’s fun, and you en­joy them,” said Alonso. Reuters

Fernando Alonso

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malaysia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.