Fernando Alonso, the mysterious yet charismatic racing driver typically associated with winning, may be forced to sit out the 2019 Indy 500 if his McLaren Racing Chevy squad isn't able to deliver the speed needed for Sunday's bump-style qualifying.
Saturday's qualifying round proved that not everything Alonso touches turns into gold, or victory trophies for that matter, as the two-time Formula 1 world champion was "bumped" outside the top 30 spots for next week's race. As a result, the papaya orange squad will have to compete against five other teams on Sunday to earn one of the coveted last three spots on the grid. With six drivers total battling for half as many spots, three teams and drivers will be forced to pack their bags come Sunday evening and simply try again in 2020.
"We were running quite well this morning when the conditions were not too bad, but unfortunately, we picked up a rear puncture and then we decided to wait until this afternoon to get back out on track when track conditions were slightly better," said Alonso. "At the end of the day, we didn't have the pace and the final time we posted wasn't enough to be in the top 30, so we must try again tomorrow and we'll need to execute the four laps as well as possible, clean and with no mistakes. It's a difficult moment for the team, but we must remain calm and focused and I hope we can find enough to make the top three positions of the six tomorrow."
Adding insult to injury, some of the drivers that Alonso will be competing against include several Indy 500 veterans and even a former 500 pole-sitter. Much to the surprise (and dismay) of the racing fraternity and fans alike, James Hinchcliffe was forced outside of the top 30 after suffering a chill-inducing crash during his first outing on Saturday, forcing the Arrow Schmidt Peterson team to scramble and prepare Hinch's spare care for a second run at the end of the day. Unfortunately, the spare car didn't deliver the desired results and now Hinchcliffe will face Alonso, Sage Karam, Pato O'Ward, Max Chilton, and Kyle Kaiser.
This week that comes to a close has been a tough one for the McLaren Chevy outfit, especially after Alonso suffered a big shunt on Tuesday that sidelined team and driver on Wednesday. Unfortunately, the team—nor Alonso—was able to find the speed necessary to keep up with the rest of the field after the crash, and things quickly turned sour when it came time to qualify.
"It has been a difficult day, and it follows a difficult week," added Alonso.
With severe threats of thunderstorms in the forecast for Sunday, it will be interesting to see how the last-row shootout pans out. But one thing is for sure, by 1:15 p.m. on Sunday afternoon, we will know whether Fernando Alonso and McLaren will have a shot at the 103rd running of the Indy 500 or not.