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Andretti hails perfect Indy opportunity for Alonso

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Motorsport legend Mario Andretti  is throwing his full support behind Fernando Alonso's challenge to conquer the Indy 500.

Andretti, who trumphed at the Brickyard in 1969, is one of just five drivers who have won the Blue Ribbon event and the F1 world championship.

But the rarity of the feat is just another reason to spur Alonso on, says Super Mario.

"The timing couldn’t be better," Mario told Motorsport.com.

"This is the perfect opportunity for Fernando because he has nothing really going on in Formula 1 currently – McLaren are not contenders at the moment – but he is still in his prime.

"So while he’s still so vibrant, this shot at Indianapolis is truly awesome for him, for McLaren, Honda, for Michael’s team [Andretti Autosport], for IndyCar…

"It’s a major deal that he’s even stated this desire and made this decision; so if he does well – and I think he will – then that’s going to be a real feather in his cap."

The McLaren drivers' main difficulty will reside in his assimilation of oval racing rather than mastering an Indycar itself. But Andretti Autosport provides the best environment for a rookie's venture into the Indy 500, says Mario.

Let’s face it, it’s adapting to ovals, not the cars themselves, that we need to think about here,” he says.

"A driver in a racecar is looking for a feel, and the best drivers – and Fernando is one of the very, very best – will always find it. It may not be his regular environment, but a top driver will find a way to relate to any true racecar.”

“Look at Kurt Busch; he finished sixth in 2014. Look at Alexander [Rossi] last year; he won the race! Andretti Autosport has got an extra dimension and an engineering force that’s almost second to none.

“It has always been Michael’s stringent policy that everyone – drivers, race engineers, all the technical staff – shares data and information. They all sit in the same room after their day’s work, and they share what they found. Everything’s there, on every laptop.

"Fernando will benefit so much from that – and you know he’s going to be listening and absorbing it all."

Starting from ground zero, as a novice, as talented as he may be, is Alonso in with a realistic chance of adding a second jewel to his desired Triple Crown?

"We’ve seen examples of Indy 500s that have startled us – as recently as last year,” he says.

You never know how this race is gonna unfold. So I think the team will give him a conservative setup because it would be stupid to do anything else, and it will be something he can maximize all day.

"Well being who he is, and how quickly I think he’s going to adapt to this style of racing, I suspect he’s going to be right there, top 10 or top 12 for most of the race and then toward the end he’ll be really finding his way.

"His engineer, Eric Bretzman, is a very successful and talented guy who will do a good job for him, just like Craig Hampson did for Kurt Busch.

"So if you combine that with Fernando’s talent, I think he’s got a great opportunity to go home very happy."