McLaren Honda Formula One driver Fernando Alonso has been cleared to race after suffering a concussion in testing, and boy, did he have some bombs to drop about that accident during Thursday's press conference. It wasn't from a gust of wind: the steering actually locked up and sent him into the wall.
The crash in preseason testing forced Alonso to miss the last preseason test of the season as well as the Australian Grand Prix. According to BBC Sport, the 33-year-old driver had to pass a full physical test before being cleared to race at the Malaysian Grand Prix this weekend, but with a clean bill of health, he's been cleared to get back in the driver's seat.
McLaren, bizarrely, wasn't very open about the accident after it happened. The Grand Prix Drivers' Association was even calling for the team to be more open about what happened, yet the team continued to assure everyone that it was a fairly mundane crash. It clearly wasn't, though, if it was hard enough to give Alonso a concussion that severe. People eat walls all the time nowadays and don't end up having to sit out the next grand prix from a head injury.
Let's look at the silly rumors about Alonso's preseason test crash one-by-one, as disproven by Alonso in today's press conference himself, shall we?
The steering, not the wind, was to blame. One interviewer in the press conference asked Alonso point-blank, "Given that you remember the accident, as far as you're concerned it wasn't driver error or fatigue or, as the team put it, a gust of wind that blew you off course?"
Alonso's response was as follows:
No, no, definitely not. When you see the video, even a hurricane would not move the car at that speed. Also if you have any problem, medical issue, normally you will lose power and go straight to the outside, never to the inside. That's one thing.
Honestly, with the accident and the repercussions, a lot of attention on that day, and probably the first answers and first press conference that the team had, my manager whatever, it was just some guess. The wind. Maybe other possibilities.
Alonso wasn't happy that this wind theory got blown (har, har) out of proportion, maintaining that this piece of speculation about the cause of the crash may have done more harm than good when it comes to addressing the real reason it happened. Clearly, to him, there was a steering problem. That is a major issue that needed to be addressed for whoever drove the car.
What really happened, then?
"Definitely, we still have a problem in Turn 3, it locked to the right, I approached the wall, I braked at last moment, I downshift from fifth to third," explained Alonso.
The steering locked up, the car became uncontrollable, and Alonso became an unwilling passenger headed to the wall outside Turn 3.
The early reports were right: Alonso was conscious after the hit. "I remember everything. It was a sunny morning, all the set-up changes, all the lap times," explained Alonso. He continued:
After the hit, I was kissing the wall for a while, and then I switched off radio first and then I switched off the master switch for the batteries to switch off the ERS system because I saw the marshals were coming so they could touch the car. So I was perfectly conscious at that time.
It wasn't until after he'd had some medication to knock him out when he finally took a much-needed zonked-out nap. Let's let Alonso explain this:
I lose the conscious in the ambulance I think, at the clinic at the circuit. Doctors said this is normal for the medication for helicopter transportation and checks in the hospital, the MRI and evaluation needs this protocol, needs this medication, so it's normal.
You know what I hate feeling? Concussions. The best thing ever after a concussion is when you can finally sleep the stupid thing off.
Sorry, Energy Recovery System Truthers. There was no zap. There was no bang. There was zero electrocution involved in this wreck. Alonso was alert after it happened, and probably needed a good ol' fashioned nap.
This rumor had the distinctly fishy smell of the overzealous (and frequently bluff-prone) European F1 media as soon as we heard it, so we didn't even bother giving it a proper write-up here.
"I didn't wake up in 1995, I didn't wake up speaking Italian, I didn't wake up all these things probably out there," explained Alonso in the press conference. "I remember the accident and I remember everything the following day."
Boom. Myth busted.
And while we're on this kick of honesty and openness, can we, as media, please stop running with nonsense printed that cites sketchy sources by publications that are often wrong on this sort of thing? Some of these "sources" are farther removed from the actual drivers they're pretending to talk about than Dark Helmet was from Lone Starr in Spaceballs, yet they make the news whenever they can spout some horsecrap about an injured driver who can't speak for himself. Knock it off. Seriously.
Despite all of this, McLaren maintains that they could find nothing wrong with the car after the accident. This sounds like it would contradict what Alonso is saying, but Alonso himself explained that the car may have simply not captured data related to the steering locking up:
And unfortunately from the data we are still missing some parts. Also data acquisition on that particular area of car is not at the top. There are some new sensors here this race. There are some changes to the steering rack and other parts. That was main thing.
Fortunately, the team is on it with better sensors and tweaks to the steering rack. According to his comments made during the press conference, Alonso is working with both his team as well as the FIA to figure out a way to better monitor situations like his in the future. Alonso said:
One of the things I did in the factory last week, with the simulator, I went through with the engineers the data available. We went through the moments. Some spots here and there but not a clear answer but I understand completely and support the team until they find a clear answer that it was this or that.
Expect this weekend to be another tough weekend for McLaren Honda, though, in part because Alonso hasn't had as much seat time in his car as most of his rivals have in theirs.
"I'm not probably confident with the car in this moment," Alonso said in the press conference. "I need to learn many things, not only the driving style but also the approach McLaren has to the weekend. There are many things to learn."
On the good side, Alonso has been extremely impressed by the outpouring of support from fans all over the world who've wished him well.
"You don't realize until you have a problem or you miss one race that so many people are behind you," he explained.
Many are worried that Alonso's critical comments mean that things have (once again) gone sour between Alonso and the McLaren team. Fortunately for McLaren fans, Alonso indicated that he had full faith in his team to not only fix the steering issue, but field a perfectly safe car to drive.
"I think we have the safest car right now with all the studies they did," Alonso said during Thursday's press conference.
Hopefully it's both safer and faster now with Alonso back in the driver's seat.
Photo credit: Getty Images
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