After an incredibly difficult week of running involving reliability issues and accidents, Fernando Alonso was left fighting to make the last row of the grid during the ‘Bump Day’ session on Sunday afternoon. His chance to be one of the 33 starters for this weekend’s race boiled down to a single run on unfamiliar settings as his team tried everything to provide a car fast enough to qualify. The five other drivers fighting him for a spot in the race were all in a similar boat to McLaren, but if anyone could pull something out of the bag in this sort of situation it would surely be Alonso, right?
Wrong. Despite a solid and consistent (if unspectacular) run, Alonso ended up 34th of 36 cars in an incredibly tense session which saw Kyle Kaiser - the last driver to run - knock the Spaniard out of the field with a four-lap average just 0.019mph quicker. It couldn’t have been much closer.
It’s an incredible story for Kaiser and Juncos Racing in itself. His sponsors withdrew just a few days before qualifying and then the team was up against it after a crash on Friday left the team scrambling for spare parts. He did a mega job to scrape into the field, along with James Hinchcliffe and Sage Karam.
Meanwhile, Alonso will be sitting on the sidelines with Max Chilton and Pato O’Ward after failing to qualify. His triple crown hopes will have to wait another year… Maybe.
The thing with the Indy 500 is that it’s the car that qualifies for the race, not the driver. Theoretically, some sort of deal could be done to get Alonso in a car that’s already qualified. However, the team has already said that won’t be the case as McLaren “wants to get in on merit.”
Alonso is chasing a victory at the Indy 500 in order to become just the second driver in history (along with Graham Hill) to have won the Triple Crown of Motorsport, which includes Indy, the Monaco GP and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. It looks like he’ll just have to wait another year…
A version of this article was originally published on WTF1