INDIANAPOLIS – Drama and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway go hand in hand. Things were no different during the first day of qualifications on Saturday. A blistering average lap of 230.083 miles per hour by Spencer Pigot in the very early moments of qualifying set the pace for the day.
But the two major stories of the day centered on fan favorites Fernando Alonso and James Hinchcliffe. The struggles of McLaren have been well documented throughout the course of the week. An accident during the morning hours of Wednesday’s practice session forced McLaren and Alonso to qualify their backup car. They were unable to run during Thursday’s practice session.
Saturday, Alonso was seemingly never able to find a good balance in his car. His first attempt of the day was the slowest of all the cars that completed a four-lap run at 225.113 mph. It was later discovered that a punctured tire hindered the first run. On his second run, the first lap of 228.464 mph was good enough to make the field of 33. However, the feeling of relief was short lived as Alonso’s second lap was 226.211 mph, almost a full 2 mph slower than his first lap. His third lap was a dismal 223.608, forcing McLaren to waive off the run
Fernando Alonso (66) of McLaren Racing following his qualifying run for the Indianapolis 500 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Saturday, May 18, 2019. (Photo: Matt Kryger/IndyStar)
Alonso’s third attempt finally put him in the field at 30th with a four-lap average of 227.000 mph, however he was soon bumped by Carlin’s Patricio O’Ward.
On the outside looking in, a fourth attempt led to another waive off. He was temporarily back in the field after a fifth attempt put him 29th, but Felix Rosenqvist and JR Hildebrand surpassed Alonso before he could get back in the top 30. He'll be joined by Hinchcliffe, Max Chitlon, O'Ward, Kyle Kaiser and Sage Karam, each getting one run Sunday for the final three positions.
For Hinchcliffe, the heartbreak of not qualifying for last year’s race created a déjà vu moment. At 1:23 p.m. during Hinchcliffe’s first qualifying attempt of the day, he lost control in turn 2 and crashed with his car overturning briefly. Hinchcliffe emerged from the destroyed Dallara chassis uninjured, but not qualified for the Indianapolis 500.
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