• Indianapolis 500

Jean Alesi's Indy debut ends in ignominy

ESPNF1 Staff
May 27, 2012 « Massa gets 'the right feeling' | Dario Franchitti claims historic third Indy 500 crown »
Jean Alesi prepares to become the oldest rookie in Indy 500 history ... but his day had no happy ending © Press Association

Lotus endured a wretched week at the Indianapolis 500, culminating of both its cars being black-flagged and pulled out of the race for going too slowly after 11 laps.

Simona de Silvestro's car was running 14 mph slower than the race leaders, while Jean Alesi was running laps 15 mph slower. Either way, the only two drivers in the 33-car field that had a Lotus engine couldn't complete laps within the so-called 105% time limit of the leaders as mandated by Indy Car rules.

"I gave it my best shot today," said Alesi, who made 201 career starts in Formula One and was the oldest rookie in Indy history. Alesi, who will turn 48 in two weeks, said he plans to drive again at Indy next year -- perhaps with a stronger engine. The Lotus cars have struggled all year, far behind Honda and Chevrolet. The Chevys have powered Team Penske to four straight wins this season. The early exits were no surprise because the Lotus cars were the slowest at the 2.5-mile oval all month.

De Silvestro of Switzerland qualified 32nd last weekend, more than 12 mph off Ryan Briscoe's pole-winning speed. Alesi started 33rd and last after qualifying almost 16½ mph off Briscoe's pace. They were so slow that Alesi and some of the other drivers were concerned the slower cars could become a dangerous impediment on race day.

Track officials decided not to help Lotus by providing extra boost for the race and instead decided to rely on the series rulebook to help keep the race safe. De Silvestro was stopped after completing only 10 laps in the 200-lap race. Alesi finished only nine laps. They were the first two cars out of the race.

Earlier this month, Dragon Racing owner Jay Penske filed a $4.6 million lawsuit against Lotus, a legal maneuver that cost his drivers several days of track time as Penske fought to reach a settlement that allowed him to put his two drivers, Sebastien Bourdais andKatherine Legge, in Chevrolets.

It left only two Lotus-powered cars in the field. IndyCar needed Alesi and de Silvestro in the race to avoid not having a full 33-car field for the first time since 1947.

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