Fernando Alonso has been ruled out of the Bahrain Grand Prix amid concerns he could suffer a punctured lung.
The 34-year-old, who sustained fractured ribs at last weekend’s Australian Grand Prix in one of the most spectacular Formula One smashes in recent times, failed a medical test at Bahrain’s Sakhir Circuit yesterday, and his participation at the next race in China in a fortnight’s time is also under threat.
Belgian’s Stoffel Vandoorne, the untested McLaren reserve driver, has jetted in from Japan to deputise for the two-time world champion.
It had been expected Alonso would be fit to take to the grid here after he was given the all-clear in Melbourne. But the Spaniard revealed his condition deteriorated to the near-200mph crash on lap 17 of the Albert Park curtain-raiser.
“I was okay on Sunday - some knee pain but nothing big - I had the green light from the doctors to leave the track and everything was okay.
“On Monday, I had a little bit of overall pain but nothing too serious. I arrived in Spain and the pain was similar, or a little bit more, so we decided to do a proper check.
“I had a small pneumothorax on the lung so we took the advice from the doctors to relax at home and make everything normal. We repeated the scan last Monday. The pneumothorax was gone, more or less, but I have some rib fractures. I’m a little bit sad.”
The Spaniard, who missed last year’s season-opener in Australia after he sustained concussion in a mysterious pre-season testing crash, added: “Formula One is a very unique sport, and with the G-forces that rib fracture could move into the lung as well. It is not like a broken leg, or a broken arm that you can deal with the pain. This is in the chest where some organs are there and we cannot do much more.”
Asked whether he will be ready for the Chinese Grand Prix, he added: “It’s not 100% certain. There will be another test in the next eight or 10 days and after that the FIA will evaluate.”
Alonso careered into the back of Esteban Gutierrez under braking for turn three, and was merely a passenger as he slammed into the wall before barrel-rolling through the air twice at the season-opener.
When Alonso’s car finally came to a standstill, the Spaniard was upside down, missing all four tyres and much of his McLaren bodywork littered the circuit. But miraculously he crawled out of his car.
Following the incident, some questioned whether the ‘Halo’ - the safety device which has been designed to shield a driver’s head from flying debris and is set to be introduced next season - would have hindered Alonso’s exit from his cockpit.
Meanwhile Sebastian Vettel says Formula One “cannot be proud” of its decision to stick with the qualifying format which flopped so spectacularly in Melbourne. Red-faced team bosses agreed to revert back to last year’s system in a hastily-arranged meeting on the morning of the season opener after the sport faced a fierce backlash following its disastrous debut.
But in subsequent meetings a failure to agree on the right path forward - whether to ditch the new knockout system or run a hybrid version of last year’s format and the 2016 rules - means the sport is bracing itself for yet further criticism here in Bahrain.
“I am as disappointed as anyone that I know that we didn’t go back,” said Vettel, the four-time world champion.
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