Despite his immense popularity in the paddock with fans, Frenchman Jean Alesi is having a tough time out on the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The former Formula 1 driver has decided to contest the prestigious Indy 500 this year, having accepted the offer his good friends Claudio Berro and Gino Rosato (formerly with Ferrari and now at Lotus) made him last Fall.
It took a long time to find a team that was capable of running Alesi. Initial contacts were made with Newman-Haas Racing and then with HVM. Both fell through. A deal was finally made with the new Fan Force United team.
The main problem is that the Dallara DW12 is powered by a Lotus Judd engine, which is well known to be down-on-power. In every practice session, Alesi's name appears constantly at the bottom of the time sheets.
To go along with the media attention that Alesi, Lotus, and Fan Force United team has generated, some controversy has been stirred by Alesi’s reaction to the events.
Wednesday, Alesi declared: “Right now, I feel very unsafe, being quite slow in the middle of the track. So I am quite concerned for my fellow drivers, if we are not able to get the speed that we need. I am flat out and I have reached 205 as the maximum that I can see. So it is not a comfortable position right now.”
The poor Alesi confirmed his concern for his fellow competitors, saying that he believes the situation as it stands to be one that is unsafe, simply due to the speed differential.
In a press release, the Frenchman said that he is not necessarily saying that he fears for himself, or that he feels a lack of safety in the car.
“Jean has made it quite clear that he is very comfortable in the car, and is simply desirous of going faster. All of this makes sense, as he is a determined racer that wants to be competitive. Jean remains fully confident in his team, and continues, along with the Fan Force team, to work hard to do all he can to find improvement in every possible area,” the press release said.
The only way Alesi can make his under-powered car to run faster is to trim it down (by reducing the amount of downforce). However, as this will make the car go faster in the straightaways, it will also make the car very delicate to drive in the four corners, is not impossible.