The FIA has taken the extraordinary step of launching an investigation into the circumstances surrounding Fernando Alonso’s crash on the final day of the second pre-season Formula 1 test at the Circuit de Catalunya.
The two-time World Champion struck the cement wall on the inside of Turn 3 – a section of the track boundary which is not protected by a tyre wall or other crash-absorbing structure – shortly before the lunch break on the fourth and final day of the test session.
He was airlifted to the Hospital General de Catalunya, where he was to spend one night under observation after suffering the symptoms of concussion. His stint in hospital was extended to three nights, and he was subsequently ruled out of participating in the final test session, which starts today. His place is being taken by reserve driver Kevin Magnussen.
It is rare for the governing body to investigate any pre- or in-season testing accidents – as they are organised by the teams and not the FIA itself – but the fact that the Spaniard spent three nights in hospital after the crash has triggered its decision this time.
It is understood that the FIA has already commenced work with McLaren to examine the accident data and closed-circuit CCTV footage to try and give some insight into exactly what happened.
There are also rumours of low-quality footage – taken from Turn 4 and looking back towards Turn 3, where Alonso had his accident – which allegedly show the Spaniard running wide through the corner, trying to correct his line, before braking and slamming into the wall.
The FIA has confirmed that one aim of its investigation will be to determine what safety-related changes can be made to that section of the track to prevent a repeat incident, given it is a highly unusual point of the circuit at which to crash.
The fact that Alonso spent three nights in hospital has prompted wild speculation that the accident – which McLaren attributed to a sudden gust of wind unsettling his car – was not as normal as the team made out. Among the more interesting claims are that Alonso was electrocuted by KERS or overcome by battery fumes, and may have already unconscious when he hit the wall.
The flames have been fanned further by McLaren’s refusal to make public any data about the apparent impact speed with the wall, or the G-forces that Alonso experienced. The Woking team took over 24 hours after the accident before releasing its first (and lengthy) official statement offering its ‘wind’ explanation.
While many journalists – who should know better, but are perhaps more interested in clickbaiting their readers – have offered their own theories, we might leave it to wise heads like veteran F1 journalist Joe Saward:
“The conspiracy theories are pretty lurid, but there are lots of questions about the accident. I don’t know the answer, but I do know that the first rule of PR is never tell lies because you will be found out. McLaren knows this and so a lengthy explanation from the team about what happened is to be respected because they have nothing to gain from lies,” he wrote.
Image via Eurosport and Luis Garcia Abad