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Fernando Alonso to miss Bahrain Grand Prix with chest injury, Stoffel Vandoorne to make McLaren F1 debut

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Fernando Alonso to miss Bahrain Grand Prix with chest injury, Stoffel Vandoorne to make McLaren F1 debut
Mar 31, 2016, 11:42 AM

Fernando Alonso will miss this weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix after it was discovered that he had sustained a fractured rib during his high-speed c...

Fernando Alonso will miss this weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix after it was discovered that he had sustained a fractured rib during his high-speed crash in Australia.

And the Spaniard candidly said that he's not 100% sure he will be fit in time for China in two weeks.

The McLaren driver underwent a scan at the Sakhir circuit and a hairline fracture in one of his ribs was discovered, as well as a small air bubble, which means he will miss the Bahrain race and be replaced by Stoffel Vandoorne.

Alonso sustained 46g in the accident in Australia, when he hit the back of Esteban Gutierrez’s Haas F1 car on lap 16 of the Melbourne race and barrel rolled through the gravel trap at Turn 3 before climbing out of his wrecked car.

Fernando Alonso

The double world champion was able to walk away from the crash unaided but after undergoing CT scans and sharing them with FIA doctors at the circuit on Thursday, it was agreed that he should not race.

A statement released by the FIA said: "Following an examination undertaken this morning at the Bahrain International Circuit Medical Centre, it has been decided that McLaren Honda F1 Team driver Fernando Alonso should not take part in this weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix.

"Two sets of chest CT scans were compared and it was decided on safety grounds that there was insufficient resolution of the signs to allow him to compete on safety grounds.

"A repeat chest scan has been requested before the Chinese Grand Prix and the results will be considered before allowing him to race there."

It is understood that Vandoorne is travelling to the Gulf from Japan, where he had been testing for the Super Formula championship, to make his F1 debut. He is due to arrive at the circuit Friday morning for seat fitting and familiarisation with the car. The first Free Practice session gets underway at 14-00 Bahrain time.

Vandoorne is McLaren's reserve driver for the 2016 season, alongside his commitments to Super Formula, after he won the 2015 GP2 championship. He took a dominant GP2 win in Bahrain in 2014.

https://twitter.com/McLarenF1/status/715487748610609152

Alonso - "I tried to be able to race"

Speaking in the pre-event press conference at the Bahrain Grand Prix, Alonso explained that he wanted to race this weekend but he had to accept the advice of the FIA doctors not to take part to avoid making the injury worse.

He said: “[I’m] a little bit disappointed because, as drivers, we want to race and we are competitive and we love the sport. When you come here and you cannot even try it is always sad. [But] it’s understandable and I respect the decision.

Fernando Alonso

“I tried to be able to race and try in practice. It has been some painful days [with] some pain at home and I was ready to go through this pain somehow in the car and make sure that I could race, because at the end of the day the pain is manageable if you don’t think too much, probably, and concentrate on driving.

“But there are some risks that the doctors think [could occur] and I understand the risk management and minimising everything is the logical thing [to do]. I’m a little bit sad for that but it is definitely the way to go.

When asked if he would return to action at the Chinese Grand Prix in two week’s time, Alonso explained that it was not confirmed, as he has to pass another FIA test before he will be allowed back in the cockpit.

He said: “Well it’s not 100 per cent. There is another test that I need to do in the next eight or ten days, so after that test the FIA will evaluate again, as they did now.”

Fernando Alonso

Summary of events

Alonso described the process that led to him missing this weekend’s race and revealed that he had also suffered from a small pneumothorax, sometimes described as a collapsed lung, in the Melbourne crash.

“Just to summarise a little bit. Last week [after the crash] I was ok, some knee pain but not a big thing and I had the green light from the doctors to leave the track and everything was ok.

“On Monday, I had a little bit of overall pain but nothing too serious. Then I flew back and arrived in Spain and the pain was similar or a little bit more so we decided to do a proper check, a CT scan.

Fernando Alonso

“I had a small pneumothorax in the lung so we took the advice of the doctors to relax at home and make everything come back to normal. We repeated the scan last Monday and the pneumothorax is more-or-less gone, but I have some rib fractures.”

The Spaniard also explained that the low driving position in an F1 car increased the risk of his injury getting worse and feels there is not any more he could do except to go along with the advice of the medical personnel.

He said: “So because of that the risk of driving, [as] Formula 1 is a unique sport with a unique [driving] position on the car, and the G-forces [mean] the fracture could move into the lung.

“It’s not like a broken leg or a broken arm [where] you can deal with the pain, this is in the chest where some organs are and we cannot do much more.

Fernando Alonso

Crashing "a part of motorsport"

Alonso accepted that big crashes and the risk of injury was a part of motorsport and explained that he had tried everything he could to race in Bahrain.

He said: “I’ve been really lucky all my career, this is my 16th Formula 1 year and it is normal that you have accidents here and there. It unfortunately happened twice in the last two years that I missed one race but the last one in Australia was quite a big impact.

“I knew that it a risky possibility to race in Bahrain because it was only ten days from the big shunt. I tried my best [and] the team did a fantastic job preparing the car for this race and I wanted to try until the last moment.

Fernando Alonso

“I flew last night and arrived this morning. I wanted to at least try in practice but I understand the position [of the doctors].”

Alonso to help Vandoorne and learn from McLaren in Bahrain

Alonso will remain in Bahrain for the duration of the Grand Prix event and the 34-year-old explained that he wanted to assist Vandoorne with his F1 debut and learn how the team prepares for a race to improve his understanding of its processes and strategies.

He said: “I will stay here over the weekend and help Stoffel because it is a good opportunity for him. I [will] help the team because I love what I do, Formula 1 and racing.

Stoffel Vandoorne

“I will miss this race but I also want to learn from the outside how the team prepares for the race and the reaction around the new qualifying system, the race itself and the strategy and the pitstop moments.

“I want to get involved in everything from the outside because it could help me on the inside in the next race. It’s a step forward that we need to do together and hopefully help the team because I am very thankful for the job they did last week.

Halo

After Alonso’s accident in Australia, many people question whether the proposed Halo cockpit protection device would have prevented him from escaping the car so quickly and the system’s safety implications in such a crash.

Halo F1 cockpit protection

But Alonso reckons the Halo would not have impeded his attempts to get out of his car in Melbourne and said that the system would have removed the concerns he had about his head being hurt during the accident.

He said: “You just try to get out of the car and at that point you just want to put your feet on the ground and walk away. This is the only thing you are thinking at that moment.

“The Halo system, I don’t know if I could get out of the car as quick as I did. I guess so because I’m sure the system is designed to look at all the scenarios.

Sebastian Vettel

“But my only concern when I was rolling over was to avoid hitting [my] head. I was very tight on the belts and I was flying, but I didn’t feel any risk at all in the middle of the accident, apart from my head that I wanted not to crash with anyone.

“The Halo was probably very welcome in my accident as well because I will avoid that concern when I’m flying.”

What do you make of the news that Alonso will miss the Bahrain race? And how do you think Vandoorne will fair on his F1 debut? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below or head over to the JAonF1 Facebook page for more discussion.
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