|Jean Alesi passes his Rookie test at Indy|
Well it appears this team may not be a recipe for disaster after all. The team has put together a pretty impressive group of guys – so much so that they moved the respected Greg Beck over to crew chief for their Lights cars for the Freedom 100.
Jean Alesi, the 47-year-old Frenchman hit a fastest lap of 211.516 after running enough laps consecutively at over the 210mph threshold to complete his rookie orientation program Monday.
Alesi expanded on the efforts from his first few days with the Fan Force United Lotus team. He ran 40 laps on Monday.
"We finished our program for being able to walk," Alesi joked. "I'm happy but I still expect more from the engine performance. We are still far away. The engineers are working on it. The top speeds we are reaching at the moment are still too low to be Lotus. So, they must tune the engine as much as they can to be competitive. With this crew and the Fan Force United team, I'm sure we can make a good race. This team has done such a great job for me so far."
05/05/12 There will be at least 33 car/driver combinations for this year’s Indianapolis 500 after all when practice begins next weekend. And a last-minute deal to insure the traditional starting lineup features one of the most unique pairings in recent memory.
SPEED has learned that Jean Alesi, who raced in Formula One for the powerful Ferrari team, is now going to be driving an Indy car for a little Firestone Indy Lights team co-owned by former Indy Racing League regular Tyce Carlson.
It’s believed Lotus is funding the deal and a formal announcement is expected Monday.
But it’s been an on-again, off-again proposition for Alesi, who was penciled into an Indy seat when Lotus confirmed it was going Indy-car racing in 2010. When a deal for Newman/Haas Racing to run him this month fell through a couple of weeks ago, it appeared he was done. Speed.com
Editor's Note: This team is a recipe for disaster. An old driver (47) who has never raced an oval in his life (and has only one F1 win to his credit) with an underfunded team and a Lotus engine. What on God's earth are they thinking?
05/03/12 With Newman/Haas confirming it has officially passed on running Jean Alesi at Indy, could another team be waiting in the wings to field the Lotus-powered deal?
SPEED.com has learned that Lotus' anchor team, HVM Racing, is one of a handful of teams considering whether to run the 47-year-old ex-Formula One driver during his first attempt to qualify for the 500.
Reached by telephone on Thursday, HVM owner Keith Wiggins offered a simple "No comment" when asked about the possibility of running the Frenchman alongside Simona de Silvestro, his full-time driver.
Alesi, known as one of the hardest chargers during a 13-year F1 career that came to a conclusion in 2001, switched to the DTM between 2002-2006, and has raced sporadically in tin-tops and sports cars in recent years.
But with more than a decade having gone by since his last serious outing in an open-wheel car and zero experience on ovals to draw from, the appeal of running the 1995 Canadian Grand Prix winner is proving to be somewhat limited.
Reports circulated at Long Beach that Lotus was shopping a deal worth somewhere between $500,000-$750,000 for a team to take Alesi, and with Newman/Haas now out of the picture, the financial incentive to field a car for the former Ferrari pilot could be of interest to teams in need of a cash injection.
04/30/12 Rumor now has it that on the 2nd and 3rd of May Jean Alesi will be in the Dallara factory, at Varano, for two test days in the simulator with his engineers. Lotus is expected to announce the name of the new team in the coming days.
04/28/12 This rumor is downgraded to 'false' today with the announcement that Newman/Haas has withdrawn from the Indy 500. With Lotus engines just backmarkers (when did John Judd ever build an engine to compete at this level, they are endurance specialists, i.e. low HP, lower RPM) Newman/Haas could not stomach running at the back with driver Jean Alesi, who has no oval experience on a low downforce track like Indy. It was a recipe for disaster.
04/05/12 Jean Alesi has confirmed that his inaugural assault on the Indianapolis 500 will be run by legendary IndyCar team Newman/Haas Racing for the Month of May. The deal, first tipped yesterday by French magazine Autohebdo, was confirmed by the Sicilian himself on Thursday.
The 47-year-old ex-Formula 1 racer announced plans last September to contest the 500-mile open-wheel classic on May 27. Alesi, who started 201 grand prix but has never raced on an oval, will drive a Lotus-powered Dallara DW12 for the Illinois-based team owned by Carl Haas. Newman/Haas, which Haas founded along with the late Paul Newman, was also the team that brought F1's Nigel Mansell to Indy in 1993, and has been a dominant force at Indy many times with the likes of Mario and Michael Andretti, although it has never won the 500. Racer.com
04/04/12 Last fall Jean Alesi declared that he would make a racing comeback at the Indianapolis 500 this year in a Lotus-powered car, but those plans appeared to have fallen apart due to the problems with Lotus engine supply and him maybe coming to the realization he is too old to handle the diabolical new IndyCar on ovals. However, French motorsports publication Autohebdo claims that the Sicilian could still compete at Indianapolis next month – for Newman/Haas Racing. It offered no other details.
"The rumor has been growing and I can now officially confirm it here in Singapore, I will definitely be on the grid of the Indy 500, on May 27 2012," Alesi told Autosport.
"I will simply have to go round the oval 200 times at an average speed of 370km/h and finish in front of the 32 other competitors to enjoy this famous milk bottle handed to the winner.
"But it's a long way to the checkered flag: rookie test, pole day, the 200 laps… I am aware that this is a major challenge that entails a lot of personal and physical sacrifices to make qualifying and the race happen in the best of conditions."
"It is with the same strength to win and push my boundaries that I will prepare for this 101st edition of the Indy 500.
"I fully intend to put my name on the Borg Warner Trophy as I have no intention to put away my gloves or retire."
He said he had already begun physical training and working in Dallara's simulator.
"Dallara, who allowed me to win the [French] F3 championship in 1987 with the F386 and then the F387 chassis, are backing me up in the challenge by allowing me to use their simulator," said Alesi.
"I have already clocked quite a few hours in it to get to grips with the specifics of this series which is new to me as a driver."
09/22/11 This rumor is upgraded to 'strong' today. Group Lotus will announce on Friday that Jean Alesi is to contest the fabled Indy 500 next year. Frenchman Alesi, a veteran of more than 200 grands prix, is already a brand ambassador for the sports car maker, the Renault title sponsor.
And the 47-year-old will confirm his Indianapolis drive at a press conference on Friday, according to the Swiss newspaper Blick.
"A dangerous ride for the former Ferrari and Sauber star. Good luck!" wrote veteran correspondent Roger Benoit.
09/08/11 Retired Formula 1 star Jean Alesi says he is serious about launching a comeback at next year's Indy 500 with Lotus. Alesi, now 47, currently is employed by Lotus as an "ambassador" for the auto manufacturer, but told AUTOSPORT he is eager to race at Indy with the company, which is scheduled to launch its own turbo engine in 2012.
"We are still looking at Indianapolis with Lotus – maybe soon they will make an announcement," Alesi said. "Lotus is a big name and I have a contract with them for three years. It would be fantastic to have this challenge."
Alesi has no oval racing experience, but said he was not inclined to enter any pre-Indy races in preparation for a 500 debut.
"No," he said when asked if he would race elsewhere before May. "If it happens, it is Indianapolis. Hopefully, we can do something." More at Racer.com
04/09/11 Rumor has it that ex-Formula 1 driver Jean Alesi is talking to KV Racing about driving for the team at the season finale in Las Vegas and going after the $5 million prize IndyCar has put up to attract 5 top drivers to the last race of the year in Las Vegas.