MONTE CARLO, Monaco -- Twelve months ago Fernando Alonso was getting ready to race at his first Indy 500, but this year he is back in the familiar surroundings of Monte Carlo.
In his debut at the Brickyard Alonso looked like a contender for victory throughout the race weekend, but ultimately retired when his Honda engine blew with 20 laps remaining. Ironically, he was only taking part in the event because his Honda F1 engine's lack of performance meant a victory at any grand prix last year was nearly impossible, but this year a switch to Renault power has moved his McLaren team into the thick of the midfield battle.
A victory or podium remains incredibly unlikely, but Alonso refused to give a direct answer when he was asked if he would rather be in Indianapolis or Monaco this weekend.
"I think there is time for everything. I grew up here in Europe and I grew up in a Formula One environment. I dreamed about Formula One when I was a go-kart driver and I joined F1 when I was 19 and I was battling with Michael Schumacher and I had the life that I dreamed of.
"But sometimes to go out of this world and experience those kinds of big races is quite beneficial. I think looking back now, 12 months ago, I was enjoying a lot that experience.
"I came here [Monaco] yesterday evening and I didn't miss it [Indy]. It was good last year, I had my two weeks there and probably this time last year we had finished qualifying and we were P5 with a high chance to win a race, or at least the same chance of all 33 drivers there.
"Here, you come and you have no chances and no possibilities, and whatever your inspiration will be on Saturday you cannot overcome the deficit of the car. This race will be a train of cars on Sunday, but there [at the Indy 500] it will be a chance of a last lap overtake until the very last moment. I think it was good 12 months ago, it's still good now, it was a great experience."
Monaco has been known to throw up occasional surprise results, such as the wet 1996 event won by Olivier Panis in a Ligier, but Alonso is not expecting anyone other than the top three teams to fight for victory this year.
"It's a different and very unique layout, but at the same time there are not many surprises here. It is never a place where you have a midfield team winning a race or a small team winning a race or doing the pole position. There is always a lot of expectation in Monaco but it is always a Mercedes, a Ferrari or a Red Bull on pole position. Three of these six drivers [from the top three teams] have been on the podium in the last editions, and I think it is going to be quite similar again.
"Definitely it's an opportunity for some of the teams to do a good race, to score a good number of points -- hopefully with both cars -- but it's also quite easy to do a mistake and lose all those points. It's quite difficult to make a surprise but it's quite easy to make a mistake. It's a weekend that is important in all the aspects to execute well."
Monaco Grand Prix (All times Eastern)
Practice 1 - Thursday, May 24, 4.55 AM - ESPN2
Practice 2 - Thursday, May 24, 8.55 AM - ESPNEWS
Practice 3 - Saturday, May 26, 5.55 AM - ESPN2
Qualifying - Saturday, May 26, 8.55 AM - ESPN2
'On the Grid' - Sunday, May 27 8.30 AM - ESPN
Race - Sunday, May 27, 9.05 AM - ESPN
Encore - Sunday, May 27, 3.30PM - ABC
Encore - Monday, May 8, 2018, 3.30 AM - ESPN2
Encore - Monday, May 28, 2018, 8.00 PM - ESPN2