Fernando Alonso and Jack Harvey are team-mates at Indy 500 this year
Alonso has been hamstrung by an under-performing McLaren-Honda car in the 2017 F1 season so far having completed just three of the five Grands Prix and achieved a best finishing position of 12th.
The Woking-based team have therefore allowed him to skip the Monaco Grand Prix to travel to Indianapolis and race in Indy 500 where he is aiming to complete the second leg of motor racing’s ‘Triple Crown’.
If Alonso could add Indy 500 victory to his 2006 and 2007 Monaco GP victories, he would be just a 24 Hours of Le Mans win away from joining Graham Hill as the second man to complete the remarkable feat.
It would cement his place in motor racing history as one of the greatest racing drivers of all-time and he has already been proving himself to his contemporaries in the US.
Indy 500 prize money over the last decade Thu, May 25, 2017
Express Sport takes a look at the Indy 500 prize money from the last decade
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2016 – Alexander Rossi won $2.548m out of $13.273m
Jack Harvey is, like Alonso, an Indy 500 rookie but the Brit will start 27th after a difficult week thanks to reliability issues with his Andretti Autosport.
But the 24-year-old says spending time with his childhood hero has been an enlightening experience, even though the two-time F1 world champion has never raced on an oval before.
“Fernando has been an incredible team-mate to have because of what he brings to the table in terms of experience and he’s one everything you would hope someone like him would do,” Harvey told Express Sport.
“What he’s achieved is super-impressive already.
“He was a childhood hero of mine so when it was announced that he was going to be my team-mate, it was the most surreal moment ever.
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“I’ve still not really found the words to explain how cool I thought he was.
Jack Harvey says he feels he has earned his spot in Indy 500
“When I was in go-karts, he was winning F1 World Drivers’ Championships and he was the guy I wanted to be.
“Suddenly, we’re team-mates on somewhat equal terms and it’s been just great.
“The way that our week has gone, I haven't felt like we’ve been able to contribute too much to the team because we’ve always been on the back foot and haven’t really had the chance to showcase what I think I can do and what the team can do. It’s been difficult.
“Even though I’ve raced IndyCar before and won stuff, I still though I’d be learning from him than him from me.
“It’s very interesting to be a part of his debriefs.
Fernando Alonso is hoping to lead the field home after 500 miles of Indy 500 action
“What he can feel in the car and in the engine is some of the most impressive debriefs that I’ve ever been a part of by a mile so it’s been quite a good experience.”
Harvey was tipped as one of the rising stars of motor racing in the UK when he won the 2012 British Formula 3 Championship before stepping up to GP3.
But then in 2014, the Lincolnshire-born driver made the surprising switch, backed by the Racing Steps Foundation, to sign for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports in the Indy Lights series, the feeder to IndyCar.
“I think my move caught a few people off-guard,” Harvey added.
“Formula One was bottle-necking because of the amount of money that was being required to keep progressing.
“GP2 was the next logical step and it didn't really promote you to anywhere. So my sponsors at the time came together and we decided it was a good idea to go to the US.
“If we could get into Indy Lights we could get into IndyCar at least for a few races and we came close to winning Indy Lights two years in a row.
“What’s good about getting into Indy 500 this year is that it wasn’t anything we were gifted.
“We had to work so hard to get here with all the people who have supported me.
“It’s be a lengthy and long process with extreme highs and extreme lows.
“I feel like we made the right decision and by being a part of Indy 500 I feel like it’s paid off.
“We’ve still got work to do after this race but this was a big reason for wanting to come over.”
Harvey also believes that the over-officious authorities in European racing have diluted the sport and forced teams and drivers apart – and he has no intention of heading back any time soon.
“It’s a much different approach over here,” Harvey said.
“They still enjoy themselves over here.
“I came to America and re-found my spark for racing.
“In Europe, you don’t really talk to too many of the other teams unless you really know somebody but here, if you’re not sociable, you seem like the odd man out.
“They still want to win as much but it’s just a little purer over here.
“Some of the things that Europe does is frustrating because there are endless rules that aren’t necessary.
“In the US, they haven’t got to that problem yet.
“I enjoy living out here too – I’ve been living in Indianapolis for three years and it’s certainly a place I would like to stay.”