During pre-season testing for the 2015 Formula One World Championship at the Circuit de Catalunya in Spain last month, double world champion Fernando Alonso unexpectedly left the track, causing the right-hand side of his McLaren to strike a cement wall. Despite traveling at a relatively low speed—for an F1 car—and the crash being rather minor, Alonso suffered a concussion and was airlifted to hospital where he remained in hospital for several days.
A lack of official comment led to numerous rumors emerging as to the reason for the crash, including the Spaniard being electrocuted by his McLaren’s new Honda power unit; he being affected by an unknown previous medical condition; and he even succumbing to fumes from the car. Eventually, McLaren came out with a statement blaming a gust of wind for the crash and claiming no mechanical issues were found. In fact, McLaren described the crash as “normal”.
Now, speaking on the eve of the 2015 Malaysian Grand Prix, which Alonso has been cleared by the FIA and medical teams to race in (he sat out the previous race in Australia as a precaution due to his previous concussion), he has rejected McLaren's claims the crash was not caused by mechanical issues, insisting there was a steering problem. He also denied that he suffered any memory loss from before or during the crash. He has admitted to losing about four hours of memory, but only after receiving medication.
“There was a lot of attention on that day and probably the first answers the team and my manager had was some guess,” he said. “They said the theory of the wind but obviously it was not a help. We had a steering problem in the middle of turn three. It locked to the right, I approached the wall, I braked at the last moment, I downshifted from fifth to third.
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“Unfortunately on the data, we’re still missing some parts. The data acquisition on that particular area of the car is not top. It is clear there was a problem on the car. It’s not been found on the data at the moment. There is not a clear answer.”
The good news is that Alonso is confident in his team and is very much looking forward to getting back into the car for this weekend’s race. McLaren hasn’t been able to detect any issue in subsequent reconstructions and laboratory tests, though the team has fitted an additional sensor to the car to increase its data capture in case there is any issue going forward.