At the beginning of the final test at Barcelona for the Formula One circus, McLaren driver Fernando Alonso was involved in seemingly innocuous crash on February 22nd. He had plowed the side of his car parallel into a wall right after turn 2 a few laps into the session. The incident left the two time world champion briefly unconscious. Once the medical teams arrived he was awake and alert, but to be safe he was airlifted to a local hospital for assessment.
Alonso suffered from a concussion that most thought would be only mild, which left him to miss the rest of preseason testing in an effort to prevent the possibility of further head trauma.
The crash turned out to be quite serious, though no serious damage was seen to be present on the car. However it was revealed that the impact was clocked at 134 MPH and the sudden impact had generated significant G-forces. Alonso was lucky to suffer only a concussion, not to take a concussion lightly, thanks to modern FIA safety standards. Apparently the crash was serious enough to require him to spend three days in the hospital, then flown back to Spain and was released to start rehabilitation, which he is still undergoing today.
Now that two weeks have flown right over our heads along with another test weekend in Barcelona, Alonso’s recovery appeared to be coming along. Unfortunately, the Spaniard’s fans will be disappointed to know that Fernando will not be participating in the season opener in Melbourne, Australia. It was more serious than first thought.
Everyone , from Ron Dennis to the media, was taken off guard by the decision for him to sit out the season opener. Both Alonso and Ron Dennis had said just a week ago that he was expected to pilot the problem plagued McLaren Honda in Australia. Medical Doctor isn’t among Ron Dennis’ many abilities.
Of course we all believe that a concussion isn’t that serious, but unfortunately we are slowly and painfully finding out through various sports that they are. NASCAR’s Dale Earhardt, Jr had to sit out several races in 2012 due to a concussion that didn’t become evident until Junior himself said that he couldn’t concentrate. He had gotten back into the car too early. It seems we too often forget that it take 6 to 8 weeks to fully recover from having your brain rattled.
The doctors recommended that Alonso sit this first stint out to take more time to recover as well as to prevent a ‘second impact syndrome’. This is a condition in which a second concussion more easily occurs when the first hasn’t properly healed. Let’s face it, your brain is already been in a blender. Alonso was disappointed to hear the news of not participating in the first race, but fully understands the risks if he were to race.
Fernando tweeted to his fans “it will be tough not to be in Australia, but I understand the recommendation” followed by a hashtag “countdown to Malaysia”. Given this, Alonso will most likely partake in the Malaysian Grand Prix on March 29th. This is Alonso’s first race to miss because of medical contention since 2001, his first year in Formula 1. That means he has 235 starts with 236 races he has participated in, one of those he didn’t start due to the Indianapolis Michelin tire debacle.
Taking his place in what may be a hugely embarrassing moment in the history of McLaren will be last years sensational rookie driver Kevin Magnussen, who isn’t at all prepared to take the seat. He has had precious little time in the car and isn’t happy with the team’s decision to replace him in order to retain Jenson Button. If there is a silver lining in this cloud, it’s that Alonso will be spared the actual horror of introducing a team in deep trouble to the grid.
So what does this mean for McLaren-Honda? After testing was all said and done, you could say the team is rapidly losing support, it’s being written off with or without Alonso. It reminds me of last year when reliability and power units were the main issue and Renault Red Bull were on the ropes.
Although every team has learned from their previous season, Honda is a year behind. It’s reminiscent of Lotus last season, spending too much time either in the garage or the drivers hitch hiking back to it while leaving their car on the side of the circuit. Is there really anything conclusive here? It’s far to late to fret about McLaren making the right or wrong decision. The chassis seems stable, but the other than that, the overall effort appears to be a psychotic horse running into a burning barn.
But that’s not all. Even Alonso and Button, as talented as they both are, couldn’t have hoped to score points with so few laps and so many problems to face. Again, they will fall behind in that category as well!
This is a snowball effect that could put both Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen back in the garage if the MP4-30 can’t dance around the little park in Melbourne, assuming they can get out of the garage. The executives at Honda are, no doubt, sweating the consequences of losing face while putting on a brave face.
Honda motorsport boss Yasuhisa Arai says Honda will be ready to go racing in Melbourne despite its horrible start as McLaren’s engine supplier. Bless their little Japanese hearts, they are, if nothing, optimists.
Fernando Alonso being out is the last thing McLaren needed to cap off a seemingly doomed start to their 2015 season. On the positive side, we all thought that last year only four or five cars would finish at Australia and then, in the end, only two fell out. It could all go the other way for McLaren, the car could actually finish the race and in the points.
One never knows in F1 what the next day is going to bring, other than Mercedes lapping the field.