A lesson for Fernando Alonso in the Andretti Indy 500 Curse

Alonso: Every day is a new lesson (1:53)

Fernando Alonso reveals what he's learning from his IndyCar practice sessions and how different it is to Formula 1. (1:53)

Fernando Alonso need not look very far for a reminder of the infuriating vagaries associated with trying to win the Indianapolis 500.

That said, it might not be a good idea to ask his boss, Michael Andretti, about what can go wrong when you do everything right. And it might not help their relationship if Fernando reminds Michael that he holds the record for the most laps led at the Indy 500 without actually winning it.

That undesirable statistic is exacerbated by Andretti having come close -- very close -- on occasions almost too numerous to mention. But the worst, without doubt, had to be in 1992 on what would turn out to be the most appalling day for the Andretti family.

Michael had a two-lap lead when, with 10 to go, the fuel pump failed. He coasted to a halt to find the family trying to cope with the additional trauma of his brother, Jeff, suffering from a smashed leg and a separate crash for his father having put Mario in hospital with six broken toes.

All of this made second place the previous year (after an epic last-lap wheel-to-wheel battle with Rick Mears) seem acceptable. It almost goes without saying that Michael had led most of that race too. As he did in 1989 and would do in 1995 and 2003, but without getting to drink the winner's milk.

Given that Mario Andretti has won 111 races in just about any motor sport category you care to mention, it comes as a surprise to learn that he claimed the Indy 500 just once. And that victory in 1969 was when he least expected it.

Having crashed a 4-wheel-drive Lotus during practice and received facial burns, Andretti took the start in a back-up Hawk from the previous year. Problems for others saw Mario coax home a car low on transmission fluid, high in engine temperature and hobbled by a slipping clutch. Equally remarkable, he completed the 500 miles on the same set of tyres.

As if to prove that perfection should almost be avoided, Mario will reluctantly tell you his story of the 1987 Indy 500. This was the second year of Indycar racing for Ilmor Engineering (the Northamptonshire nucleus of Mercedes AMG High Performance Powertrains) and their Chevrolet V8. Having won for the first time at Long Beach to break Cosworth's 84-race winning streak, Ilmor and the Newman Haas team looked strong at Indy as Andretti's Lola took pole and was completely unchallenged in the race. Having a lap in hand and anxious not to jeopardise an easy win, Andretti cut his revs. With 20 of the 200 laps remaining, the engine failed.

Ilmor were stunned. A spring had broken and they had no idea why. Work on a test rig would later show that, by backing off, Andretti had actually caused the failure, the lower revs setting up an unnatural frequency inside the Chevy that had overstressed the springs.

Andretti had dominated the entire month at the Speedway, topped the times on 11 of the 17 days, won a pit stop competition, led 170 of the first 177 laps and set the fastest leading lap. The Andretti Curse had struck again.

So there you have it, Fernando; don't mention the Andretti Curse. Mind you, if you told them half of what's been going on at McLaren-Honda these past few years, they'd find that difficult to believe too.