McLaren have drafted in former IndyCar champion Gil de Ferran as a mentor for Fernando Alonso as the Spaniard bids to win the Indianapolis 500 this year.
Alonso said De Ferran, winner of the Indy 500 in 2003 and a two-time IndyCar champion, would “coach” him.
The two-time Formula 1 champion said: “I’m sure it will be very useful for all these new things I need to learn.”
De Ferran told BBC Sport: “I will try to mentor him through his introduction to the speedway and its nuances.”
Indianapolis is a very different challenge from an F1 grand prix. The race is 200 laps of a 2.5-mile ‘superspeedway’ with four left turns and an average lap speed of about 230mph.
Alonso, who will race at the Indy 500 on 28 May for the Andretti Autosport-Honda team, said he was aware of the difficulties of adapting to racing on a high-speed oval such as Indianapolis.
During a visit to the IndyCar race in Birmingham, Alabama on Sunday, Alonso said: “I think it’s quite different. It’s challenging… the level of downforce, the feeling with the car, running with a car that is not symmetric on the straights, on braking. Traffic I think is a big thing.”
De Ferran is an ambassador for Honda. Their engines were used when he raced for much of his IndyCar career and he was sporting director of Honda’s own F1 team from 2005-7.
The 49-year-old Brazilian grew up in European road racing, winning the 1992 British Formula Three championship, before moving to race in the States. De Ferran is the holder of the world closed-course speed record, with his 241.428mph pole lap record at the Fontana oval in California in 2000.
Alonso, who has not won a race in F1 for four years because of uncompetitive machinery from Ferrari and McLaren, has set his sights on winning the ‘triple crown’ of the Monaco Grand Prix, Indy 500 and Le Mans 24 Hours before he retires.
But he has also made it clear his priority remains F1, where he still hopes to win a third world title.
“If I want to to be the most complete driver in the world or the best driver in the world, then I want to experience all the different cars and different driving techniques, and I need to adapt and grow up as a driver,” Alonso said.
“And if I want to do that, I need to win it and if it’s not this year then we need to plan it for the next event.”
He added that he felt making the leap from F1 to Le Mans was not as difficult. He said: “Some of the F1 drivers that jump into the Le Mans car, they have no difficulties in terms of adapting.
“The 24 Hours is a little different [from Indianapolis]. It’s a more relaxed race, you can do it at an older age.”