Ed Jones, the Dubai-born rookie, finished an impressive third in Sunday’s Indianapolis 500 race but said he believes he could have won had his car not suffered damage.
Jones, 22, suffered damage to his Dale Coyne Racing-Honda following a crash involving Scott Dixon and Jay Howard a quarter of the way through the 200-lap race in the 101st edition of the Indy 500.
Jones was battling with eventual winner Takuma Sato and runner-up Helio Castroneves in the closing stages of the race, but found his car had too much drag.
■ Ed Jones interview: ‘Pretty crazy’ to be racing against Alonso at Indianapolis 500
“It was a great race for us, I had a great car all month. The whole race was so up and down for us,” Jones, who qualified 11th on debut, told motorsport.com. “It was a solid start, we were running in the top 10- 11 for most of the first half. Then when Dixon had his crash – thankfully those guys are OK -but I ran over some debris and it damaged the floor and the rear wing.”
“We had to change the rear wing and it sent me to the back of the field, then we had to claw our way back up again. We got some luck back with the last yellow as we pitted right before it, so it put us near the front. But then I had some bad luck again; I damaged my front wing and it put a big hole in [the car] … It was very hard for me to defend or attack which is frustrating because, we had the car to win today.”
Brazilian Castroneves, of Team Penske, paid tribute to Englishman Jones’s maturity and composure during the post-race press conference. “I have to say he did a very good job,” said the three-time winner. “When we ran side-by-side, he was very smart. I have to say that you drove not like a rookie, to be honest, so congrats. You did a good job.”
Fernando Alonso left the Brickyard without a fairy-tale victory to cap his Indy 500 adventure. Alonso’s race finished in much the same way as many of his Formula One efforts with McLaren this year, in frustration and a blown engine with 21 laps remaining of the 200.
Criticised in some corners for chasing Indy 500 glory rather than competing in the F1 glamour race at Monaco, Alonso said he would not have traded his experience for another drive around the glitzy Mediterranean principality.
“It’s true that before coming here some of the questions were how you can trade Monaco race for Indy 500,” Alonso told reporters after playfully chugging on a carton of milk, the traditional drink of the Indy 500 winner.
“I won two times there [Monaco], I won two world championships. To drive around Monaco for a sixth place, seventh place, even a fifth place … To be here is not possible to compare that thing. I didn’t miss Monaco in terms of result.”
It was a giddy day for Alonso, who delivered the polished performance expected of a former F1 world champion until his car’s failure, running up front and even leading for 27 laps of the race.
Having never raced on an oval track or even driven an IndyCar until this month, the 34-year-old Spaniard’s bravery and skill won the respect of the nearly 300,000 spectators who gave him a rousing standing ovation as his McLaren Andretti Autosport Honda slowed to a stop on the home straightaway.
“It was a great experience, the last two weeks. I came here basically to prove myself, to challenge myself,” Alonso said. “I know that I can be as quick as anyone in an F1 car. I didn’t know if I can be as quick as anyone in an IndyCar.
“It was nice to have this competitive feeling, even leading the Indy 500.”
Although Alonso treated his foray into IndyCar with the seriousness it deserved, it almost seemed a holiday for the Spaniard away from the pressures of his struggling F1 team.
But it is back to reality on Monday ahead of the next stop on the F1 calendar in Montreal on June 11.
“So for the future, Canada, obviously we will try to keep improving,” he said. “I think the car seems to be performing better and better.
“I think the second half of the season will be much more competitive and we will enjoy much more.”
* With agencies
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