McLaren considering a full-time entry into IndyCar, says Zak Brown

"It's been fantastic. He's one of my heroes growing up watching Formula One and he has always been, in my opinion, one of the best drivers in the world".

"You have to stay calm, be ready for the last one-third of the race".

Rossi and Sato, both former Formula One drivers, helped the two-time F1 champ make a quick transition from the familiar high-tech, road-course cars to the even faster cars on unfamiliar ovals.

MONACO (AP) - Jenson Button's one-off return to Formula One racing at the Monaco Grand Prix got off to a mixed start during practice on Thursday.

The impact of someone as high-profile as Alonso temporarily switching to IndyCar has been immediately noticeable, says Rossi. "When I came here the first time, the team had never raced ovals and we got the vehicle two weeks before the first race of the season and had no idea of the setup". While he appreciates getting the opportunity to race again and is thrilled to give Shank his 500 entry he acknowledges it's hard not to think some of the problems were preventable.

His last drive was the season-ending Abu Dhabi GP in November. Both he and Franchitti are avid watch collectors; Dixon said the vintage Rolex he was wearing and "a Daytona edition that Dario has been wearing as his lucky watch" were the two most valuable things in the auto.

"In Juan Pablo, you are not allowed to do it, so when I came here I brought the skateboard", Alonso said.

Dixon has been advised not to discuss details of the Sunday night robbery, in which police arrested two boys, ages 15 and 14, a short time later. Things were smoother in the afternoon, where he placed 12th, but the British driver got flustered by other drivers. He said Thursday, however, that regardless of Sunday's result, the Indy experience will have been a positive one. "Some things do not change".

Button used humor to explain how he agreed on his comeback. "I received many messages from fans in social media saying, 'thanks for showing us this race because I never watched it before and I absolutely love it'".

"I know this is a race that everyone has a chance to win; this is an unpredictable race", he said.

He will need to be at his best, considering McLaren has not scored a point after five races, as it struggles with its Honda engine. In contrast, Chilton believes his arrival is great for the sport, for the drivers and for Alonso himself, yet it might actually spell bad news for Formula One.

Hope was briefly raised two weeks ago when Alonso finished 12th at the Spanish GP - but clutching at straws just shows how far confidence has been shaken.

"We can put ourselves in a position to win", he said, "but the track will have something to say about it in the end". "That's my aim, as an age-grouper though, not as a professional".

With qualifying out of the way, Hildebrand has only one hour in the vehicle Friday for a final shakedown before the race on Sunday.

Chip Ganassi Racing's Max Chilton finished on top of the speed chart today with a lap of 228.592 miles per hour in the No. 8 Gallagher Honda.

  • Julie Sanders