Indy 500: Alonso retires after brilliant debut race as Sato wins
Fernando Alonso’s bid to win the Indy 500 at his first attempt came to a disappointing end as engine failure robbed him of a strong finish at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The McLaren F1 driver skipped the Monaco Grand Prix to contest the iconic American oval race and led for long spells before his Andretti Autosport Honda retired on lap 179 of 200.
Ex-F1 driver Takuma Sato came through to win the 101st staging of the race, edging out three-time victor Helio Castroneves in a breathless conclusion. Sato, who raced in F1 between 2002 and 2008 before switching to the American series – took the lead on lap 195 before successfully fending off the challenge of veteran Brazilian Castroneves.
Fellow former F1 driver Max Chilton of Britain also had a superb race, leading for several laps before coming home in an eventual fourth place. The race was earlier overshadowed by an incident involving 2008 winner Scott Dixon, who emerged largely unscathed after crashing heavily on lap 53.
Alonso’s Andretti Autosport team-mate Ryan Hunter-Reay was among the favourites for the win and a huge threat to his ambitions, but the American’s hopes literally went up in smoke on lap 138 when his Honda engine let go.
That left Alonso in the lead and, given his tribulations in F1 over the last couple of years, the irony of a Honda engine helping him into that position would not have been lost on the Spaniard. A delayed pit stop for last year’s winner Alexander Rossi – another from the Andretti Autosport stable – also played into Alonso’s hands as the race entered the closing stages.
But things started to go awry for Alonso when he lost a few places on the restart that followed the Hunter-Reay caution period, and as he tried to battle his way through the pack from ninth place in the closing stages it was his turn to experience the all-too-familiar sensation of a Honda engine failing at his back.
Another caution period followed – after a five-car smash – before the run to the flag finally saw Andretti Autosport driver Sato emerged at the head of the pack to become the first Japanese winner of the race. (BBC Sport)