Fernando Alonso will miss the first weekend since his Formula One debut in 2001 with news that the Spaniard has pulled out of the season opening Australian Grand Prix.
Alonso, who suffered concussion when he crashed in mysterious circumstances on the final day of the first Barcelona test on February 22 and was subsequently hospitalised for three nights, was advised by doctors.not to participate at the risk of aggravating the injury.
The following statement issued through McLaren summarises the outcome, “Fernando’s doctors have recommended to him that, following the concussion he sustained in a testing accident at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya on February 22nd, for the time being he should seek to limit as far as is possible any environmental risk factors that could potentially result in his sustaining another concussion so soon after his previous one, so as to minimise the chances of second impact syndrome.”
The 33-year old instead hopes to be fit to resume in time for the second event at Malaysia from March 27-29.
Kevin Magnussen will thus return to the race seat he held in 2014, though having enjoyed only two days running in the troublesome MP4-30 at the final test, the Dane will have his work cut out. However, the event will hold fond memories for the 22-year old – he finished second on his debut last season, following Daniel Ricciardo’s disqualification.
Irrespective of the official explanation and its’ reassuring undertones, that the episode has been deemed severe enough for Alonso to miss a Grand Prix will lead to inevitable theorising regarding the true nature of the Spaniard’s welfare.
An ERS-inflicted electric shock and strong winds have been discussed as logical causes of the accident, with reports of Alonso suffering amnesia symptomatic of the former, though many have speculated that an underlying medical condition explains the lack of transparency offered by all parties.
One wild theory is that Alonso is in no hurry to return to the cockpit as long as McLaren continues to flounder, and is happy to allow others – such as Magnussen, to endure the short-term pain, whilst the outfit is on record that they don’t expect to be competitive until the European season commences in May.
Much has been made of the notion that Alonso-McLaren re-coupling being a marriage of convenience. The Spaniard continues indeed to be linked to a 2016 Mercedes berth as Lewis Hamilton remains in negotiation over a new contract. Team principal Toto Wolff has admitted that Alonso is next on the list should the parties fail to agree to terms. As long as McLaren continues on their current trajectory and Hamilton is yet to put pen to paper, the rumours will continue.
The Australian Grand Prix will be poorer for Alonso’s absence, but his health is the primary concern, and with a little convalescence, the Spaniard will hopefully mark his return sooner than later.
For its’ part, McLaren will now field an identical line-up as twelve months’ ago. On that occasion, they enjoyed a belated double podium. This time around, one surmises that witnessing both cars – if not either, greeting the chequered flag would be considered a success.