At 12.36pm on Sunday, a red flag brought activity at the Montmeló circuit to a halt. Forty minutes later, a medical helicopter took off from the track with Spanish Formula 1 driver Fernando Alonso inside. The McLaren of the former world champion had left the third corner of the circuit and slammed straight into an inside wall at a speed of around 150 kilometers an hour.
The impact was sufficient to completely rip off the right rear wheel from the car. Alonso was in the cockpit of the car for around 10 minutes, unable to reply to the radio messages being sent from the pits. Soon after, the stewards arrived on the scene accompanied by an ambulance, and he was taken to the medical center to be examined.
“Fernando is conscious and he is talking,” Matteo Bonciani, communications director for the FIA governing body explained. “He has been taken by helicopter because that is the protocol in these cases.”
The conclusion that can be drawn from that statement is that at some point Alonso lost consciousness, hence the airlift. On Sunday afternoon, the driver’s agent explained that the Spaniard would be spending the night under observation. “All of the checks went well,” Luis García Abad told reporters from the Sant Cugat del Vallès hospital in Barcelona. “He has no injuries. It is not true that he was feeling unwell just before the crash. The cause was the winds, which were very strong. The telemetry leaves no doubt about that.”
The exact causes of the crash, however, remain unclear. “I was behind him and he suddenly went into the wall,” explained Ferrari driver Sebastian Vettel. “He was going slowly. It was all a bit strange.”
The accident marks another setback for McLaren ahead of this year’s season, which begins in Australia on March 15. This year the team will be using Honda engines, the Japanese manufacturer having returned to the sport after a prolonged absence. The new power unit, however, has proved problematic for the team, hampering testing sessions such as Sunday’s.