McLaren Andretti Autosport driver Fernando Alonso scooped the Rookie of the Year award for the 2017 edition of the Indianapolis 500.
Despite retiring from the race with a smoking Honda engine failure and finishing 24th, Alonso got the nod over the race’s top-finishing rookie Ed Jones who took the chequered flag in third, finishing 0.528 of a second off race winner Takuma Sato.
Alonso-mania dominated the build-up to race day and attracted enormous interest from fans who do not commonly follow the Indycar series, while winning the hearts of die-hard fans with his enthusiasm and impressive pace.
The Indy 500 Rookie of the Year honours were decided by a media vote, based off of four criteria:
- the driver’s skill
- accessibility and conduct during the month
- finishing position
Two-time Formula 1 champion Alonso qualified fifth for his Indy 500 debut and led 27 laps and was running in the lead pack in seventh when the Honda engine on his Dallara DW12 failed.
22 year old Jones, the reigning Indy Lights champion, was contesting his first campaign in IndyCar with Dale Coyne Racing-Honda this year. He ran much of his first Indy 500 outside of the top 10, but was in contention for victory late on, following Sato and runner-up Helio Castroneves across the finish line.
He was gracious in accepting that the award had eluded him, “Appreciate the support from everyone. At the end of day Rookie of the Year would have been nice but having fought for the overall win is truly special!”
Big Question: Did Fernando deserve 2017 Indy 500 Rookie of Year award?