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Alonso To Start F1 Season On The Bench

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, March 4 2015

Fernando Alonso's return to a McLaren cockpit will be delayed.

Fernando Alonso’s highly anticipated return to McLaren F1 has begun with a thud.

On the advice of his doctors, the two-time World Driving Champion will sit-out the 2015 season-opening Australian Grand Prix on March 15 after suffering a concussion in a crash while testing at Barcelona, Spain, on Feb. 22.

Alonso’s McLaren/Honda will be handled at Albert Park by reserve driver Kevin Magnussen of Denmark, who competed in 19 events for Ron Dennis’ team last season as a rookie opposite former World Champion Jenson Button of Great Britain.

Alonso, who was hospitalized for three days after the crash, has been recuperating at home in Spain. Following another round of medical tests completed Monday, McLaren officials issued this statement from its headquarters in Woking, England:

“Having performed an exhaustive series of tests and scans – some of them as recently as yesterday evening – McLaren/Honda driver Fernando Alonso’s doctors have informed him that they find him asymptomatic of any medical issue; that they see no evidence whatsoever of any injury and that they therefore describe him as entirely healthy from neurological and cardiac perspectives alike.

“However, Fernando’s doctors have recommended to him that, following the concussion he sustained in a testing accident at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya on Feb. 22, 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 minimize the chances of second impact syndrome, as is normal medical procedure when treating athletes after concussions.

“In order to limit those environmental risk factors, specifically, his doctors have advised that he should not compete in the imminent Australian Grand Prix meeting, which will take place on March 13th, 14th and 15th.”

Alonso, 33, rejoined McLaren in December after five seasons with Scuderia Ferrari. World Champion in 2005-06 with Renault, the Spaniard first drove for McLaren in 2007 as teammate to Englishman Lewis Hamilton. Alonso posted 11 victories during his ensuing tenure with Ferrari, finishing second in the World Championship three times. Alonso was winless and finished sixth in the 2014 point standings topped by Hamilton, the two-time/reigning World Champion now driving for Mercedes AMG.

Alonso is aiming to make his 2015 debut in Round 2 of the FIA’s Formula One World Championship in Malaysia on March 28.

“Fernando’s doctors acknowledge that he feels fit and well, and that he regards himself as ready to race,” McLaren’s statement continued. “And, that being the case, they are comfortable with the fact that he has already recommenced physical training, with a view to preparing for a return to the cockpit of his McLaren/Honda car for the Malaysian Grand Prix. Indeed, his doctors are supportive of that ambition, satisfied as they are that he sustained no damage whatsoever during his testing accident.”

McLaren officials blamed “unpredictably gusty winds” for the crash in Turn 3 on the final day of the second preseason test at Barcelona. “(Alonso’s) car ran wide at the entry to Turn 3 – which is a fast uphill right-hander – allowing it to run onto the Astroturf that lines the outside of the track,” McLaren said in a statement. “A consequent loss of traction caused a degree of instability, spitting it back towards the inside of the circuit, where it regained traction and struck the wall side-on.

“It was a significant lateral impact, resulting in damage to the front upright and axle. After the initial impact, the car slid down the wall for about 15 seconds before coming to a halt. All four wheels remained attached to the car, but no damage was sustained by the bodywork or crash structure between the front and rear wheels.”

McLaren added there was no evidence that mechanical failure contributed to the crash. “Finally, we can also disclose that no electrical discharge or irregularity of any kind occurred in the car’s ERS system, either before, during or after the incident,” the statement said. “That last point refutes the erroneous rumors that have spread to the effect that Fernando was rendered unconscious by an electrical fault. That is simply not true.

“Our data clearly shows that he was downshifting while applying full brake pressure right up to the moment of the first impact – something that clearly would not have been possible had he been unconscious at the time.”

Masters Historic Racing will provide a support event during the 2015 Formula One U.S. Grand Prix at Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas, from Oct. 23-25. The U.S.-based series founded by Ron Maydon last made an appearance under its previous ownership at the inaugural 2012 USGP.

Entries will be extended to drivers who regularly are competing in Masters Historic Formula One series in the United States and Europe, with a projected grid limit of 38.

“The sights and sounds of these iconic machines will bring back great memories for me of my own days racing in F1,” said Mario Andretti, the 1978 F1 World Driving Champion with Lotus and COTA ambassador. “I’m sure fans who come to the U.S. Grand Prix will leave with incredible memories of some of the cars that so many legendary drivers used to race.”

Masters competitors will have three days to get acclimated to the 3.427-mile/20-turn circuit during practice, qualifying and two races. “Historic cars racing on the most modern circuit in the world is guaranteed to be a great show,” said Bobby Epstein, COTA founder and chairman.

Tickets for the 2015 U.S. Grand Prix at COTA now are on sale. Three-day passes start at $169 with single-day tickets, hospitality packages and camping options also available. For detailed information, visit circuitoftheamericas.com or call COTA at 512-655-6300.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, March 4 2015
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