FERNANDO Alonso must be wondering if he left F1 one season too early.

The Spanish former World F1 Champion quit McLaren Racing last year to tackle the Indy 500 in his quest to win the coveted Triple Crown.

He’d already won the Monaco F1 Grand Prix and the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the next target was the Indy 500.

If he could win that, he’d be only the second driver in the world, after Graham Hill, to take the Triple Crown.

But, due to what could have been a scene from Keystone Kops, there was no McLaren on the grid at Indianapolis, so Fernando will have to wait another year.

The mishaps, errors and sometimes plain stupidity of the once famous British team just seem to leap from one disaster to the next, with US media reports kindly describing it as a ‘comedy of errors.’

The team, almost unbelievably, did not have a steering wheel for its car.

Team CEO Zak Brown said in-house design of the wheel hadn’t been finished, but he made a few calls and managed to borrow one from Cosworth.

Then someone noticed the shade of paint wasn’t quite in keeping with the team’s colours.

That left the team without a spare car, which would have come in handy since Alonso wrecked the first one when he had a huge high speed crash during practice.

That cost the team two days of testing.

Where was the spare car? Still in the paint shop. And in pieces.

There’s more . . .

Once bolted together again, and on track, the car now in its proper paint, made lots of sparks as it zoomed along the vast oval at about 350km/h.

Turns out the engineers somehow got confused with imperial and metric measures and set up the car a tad closer to Mother Earth than desirable.

Next, during the qualifying session they fitted the wrong ratios to the gearbox, limiting its top speed.

It fell short by 0.019 mph (they don’t have metrics in the US) so it was excluded.

Then Bob Fernley, head of McLaren’s Indy 500 project, left the team — he walked out.

McLaren’s Indy sports director Gil de Ferran described the fiasco as the worst in his career.

“Fernando, I’m so sorry, man,” he said.

“You’re an amazing driver. In my 35 years of racing, actually a few more, this is the most painful experience I’ve ever had.”

McLaren was founded by New Zealand’s Bruce McLaren in 1963, and has since won eight F1 constructor and 12 driver’s world titles, three Indy 500 wins and a Le Mans win.

But things have been difficult in recent times and Alonso left just as the McLarens started to get back into F1 contention.

Alonso merely smiled and said he didn’t know what he’d be doing next year.

“I finish my endurance racing program next month at Le Mans, so I’m not sure what I’m going to do.”

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Buys

Bill Buys, probably Australia’s longest-serving motoring writer, has been at his craft for more than five decades. Athough motoring has always been in his DNA, he was also night crime reporter, foreign page editor and later chief reporter of the famed Rand Daily Mail. He’s twice been shot at, attacked by a rhinoceros and had several chilling experiences in aircraft. His experience includes stints in traffic law enforcement, motor racing and rallying and writing for a variety of local and international publications. He has covered countless events, ranging from world motor shows and Formula 1 Grands Prix to Targa tarmac and round-the-houses meetings. A motoring tragic, he has owned more than 90 cars. Somewhat of a nostalgic, he has a special interest in classic cars. He is the father of Targa star Robert Buys, who often adds his expertise to Bill’s reviews.