McLaren’s miseries continued here on Thursday when the team were unable to confirm that Alonso would take part in the opening Formula One race, while on the track Button had to quit testing after only seven laps because of a hydraulics problem.
McLaren, who have been reunited with the engine suppliers Honda for the new season, have found testing sessions precisely that since they got under way in Jerez at the start of the month. However, the accident that befell Alonso here last Sunday was the biggest setback of all, and even though he was absent on Thursday he continued to dominate proceedings.
The feeling is that he will be fit for the opening round in Melbourne on 15 March. However, the fact that Ron Dennis, chairman and chief executive of the McLarenGroup, was unable to confirm it merely fuelled the speculation that has been running wild on social media since the weekend, most of it suggesting there was more to the accident than met the eye.
When Dennis was asked about Alonso’s chances of making it to Australia, he replied the matter was in the hands of the doctors and the FIA. “It’s unquantifiable. I can’t foresee any reason why not but I’m not the doctor,” he said. “There will be some tests, there are processes laid down within the FIA, and I can’t see any reason why he won’t sail through. But it’s not for me to determine. It’s not for me to say yes or no.”
There have been all sorts of rumours about Alonso’s crash at Turn 3 of the Circuit de Catalunya, including the suggestion he was unconscious at the time of the accident and may even have been electrocuted. When the driver spent three nights in hospital – he came out on Wednesday – doubts began to emerge about his fitness to take part in the opening race.
“People are saying we’re concealing, we’re doing this, we’re doing that, and it’s a complete fabrication,” Dennis said. “We’ve told you the facts.” However, his attempts to clear the muddied waters faltered when he said Alonso had suffered no injuries from the crash, despite the fact that on Sunday both an official McLaren statement and Eric Boullier, the team’s racing director, confirmed the driver had suffered concussion.
Alonso had CT and MRI scans. But having said Alonso was “devoid of all injuries”, Dennis then admitted: “There was a period of unconsciousness. It was relatively short. There were reports of some inability to recall – again that’s normal when you’re shaken like this.” Asked why Alonso had been detained in hospital for so long, he replied: “Head injuries are centre stage at the moment. There is a great deal of focus on head injuries.”
If Alonso does not take part in Melbourne it will mean a quick return to F1 for Kevin Magnussen, the man ditched by McLaren to make way for Alonso, but who has been retained by the team as their test and reserve driver.
The Dane will test on Friday hoping to fare better than Button, who on the opening day of the final testing session completed only seven laps, the fastest of which was eight seconds slower than Felipe Massa’s pace-setting Williams. On that basis, Alonso will be a lot fitter for Australia than McLaren.
Lewis Hamilton also impressed in the morning, setting the pace on medium rubber before a problem with the hybrid system ruled him out of the running in the afternoon.
Meanwhile, the GP3 driver Carmen Jordá, 26, has joined Lotus as a development driver. The team said the Spaniard would get “a significant simulator programme” as well as a drive in the new E23 later in the year. She said: “I’ve been racing since I was 10 years old so it was my dream to drive a Formula One car since I was very young.
“I will be working to improve myself as a driver as well as helping the team to develop the car by testing new developments in the simulator. It’s such a fantastic opportunity.”