Jenson Button can understand the reasoning why Fernando Alonso will not be making his second debut with McLaren this weekend.
On the advice of doctors, Alonso is absent from the season-opening Australian Grand Prix after sustaining concussion following a heavy crash on the final day of the second pre-season test last month.
Fears were expressed to Alonso of ‘second-impact syndrome’ whereby a serious brain injury, or even death, could occur should the 33-year-old be involved in a second incident so soon after the first.
Despite that there has been scepticism of the decision, particularly as Alonso spent three days in a local hospital and passed a variety of tests.
Button knows what it is like to suffer concussion as he was involved in a severe accident in practice for the 2003 Monaco Grand Prix, yet just a fortnight later was back behind the wheel of his car in Canada.
On reflection, Button knows he should arguably have never driven in that subsequent race, so can understand the precautions taken with Alonso, even if they appear extreme.
“As far as I know he (Alonso) had three days (in hospital) undergoing every scan and check under the sun,” said Button.
“I’m sure whatever they’ve chosen to do is the correct decision.
“Concussions vary. Some are very light, and then you have different grades of concussion, brain damage.
“For me, I raced two weeks after an accident in Monaco in 2003, with checks of standing on a box, closing one eye and whatever else I had to do.
“To be honest, I scraped through, so they let me race, but that was nearly 13 years ago. Now the checks are very stringent.
Despite Alonso’s incident at Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya, Button insists he has no issues with the car.
Initially, speculation centred on mechanical failure or an electrical issue given the new McLaren is now powered by Honda.
The Woking-based marque, however, categorically ruled out any such faults and instead stated a freak gust of wind played its part in the double world champion veering off track and into a wall.
Heading into Sunday’s race at Melbourne’s Albert Park, despite the lack of running throughout testing given numerous other glitches, Button maintains the car is one of the best he has driven.
“Competitiveness is impossible to say, but in terms of feel and how the car is and what you want it to do, it does everything right and a lot better than last year,” assessed Button.
“I’m not saying it’s the quickest McLaren I have ever driven, because it’s not, but in the way it works, the basic car is very good.”
Whilst Button is confident of finishing Sunday’s race, he appreciates McLaren Honda are a long way off from challenging their main rivals.
“You are going to have doubts, and it would be stupid not to have doubts when you look at winter testing because we haven’t completed a simulated race distance yet,” said Button. Yes, I do know it’s going to be a tough start, but it’s also very different.
“The last two years have not been the easiest seasons for us, but I think the difference with this year is the understanding there could be something very special on the horizon with McLaren Honda.
“The whole team is unbelievably excited about what could happen in the future.
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