Fernando Alonso has his sights firmly set on returning to Formula One in Malaysia later this month despite the shroud of uncertainty that continues to hover over the double world champion.
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Alonso’s crash into a wall at Barcelona’s Circuit de Catalunya on the final day of the second pre-season test last month has sparked feverish speculation as to the exact cause, and to the ongoing condition of the Spaniard.
McLaren claimed a freak gust of wind forced Alonso off track, denying vehemently the incident was caused by either mechanical or electrical failure, yet there are those who have their doubts.
The 33-year-old went on to spend three nights in a local hospital on the back of conflicting stories as to whether he had suffered concussion.
After skipping the third and final test, doctors decided it would be in Alonso’s best interests for him to also miss the first race of the season in Australia this weekend.
It was deemed necessary for Alonso to avoid ‘second-impact syndrome’, whereby brain damage or death could result from another incident at a time when he is continuing to recover from the first.
Again doubts have been expressed as to why Alonso would require three nights in hospital when he passed varying tests with flying colours. The belief is Alonso will return for the race in Malaysia.
Assessing his situation, Alonso said: “Of course, I’m very disappointed not to be joining Jenson (Button) in Melbourne in the McLaren garage.
“But I understand the recommendations of the doctors and I’m already back in training and preparing for my first race in the car.
“I would like to thank everybody for their kind wishes and support, and I’ll be giving everything to be back in the cockpit for Malaysia.”
With reserve driver Kevin Magnussen set to deputise in Melbourne, Alonso added: “I wish Kevin all the best for this weekend. I know the car is in safe hands.
“Even though we faced a lot of challenges in the tests, I am very encouraged by the feeling I got from the car. I’m looking forward to going through all of the data from this weekend with the team to continue our push for development.”
Team-mate Button has conceded it is “a real shame” Alonso is not fit enough to drive while hoping his team-mate makes “a speedy recovery”.
As for Magnussen, promoted to second on his race debut in Australia a year ago before making way for Alonso at the end of the season, the Dane has mixed emotions.
“I’m really pleased to be behind the wheel with McLaren at Melbourne again,” said Magnussen.
“The reason I am here is an unusual one, but my job is to do the best I can for the team while Fernando is out of the cockpit, and that’s what I’ll do. To be back in
Melbourne is a fantastic feeling, especially as those memories of my podium here last year are incredibly special and something I’ll never forget.
“Although I didn’t expect to be sitting in the cockpit in Australia, I’ve spent the winter preparing as I would normally for a race season, so I feel fit and ready for the task ahead of me and to do the best I can for the team.”
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