• McLaren

Dennis: 'Alonso is devoid of all injuries'

Nate Saunders in Barcelona
February 26, 2015
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On Thursday McLaren CEO Ron Dennis addressed the media at the Circuit de Catalyuna to clear up details on Fernando Alonso's crash last week. His full statement and subsequent responses to media questions can be seen in full below.

This was supposed to be nothing more than a press briefing to cover off so many things that have been going on social media, opinions in the media etc over Fernando. This is an opportunity to clean up and correct most of the stories you've either read, heard etc etc.

What I will say is a few facts: Fernando's period in hospital was determined by the doctors, not by us. We were completely supportive. Anyone who lives in England at the moment - and I don't think it's unusual - knows there has ecome a great deal of focus on head injuries. Head injuries have occurred in different sports over the last few months, some that have been almost freakish with significant consequences in skiing, ice hockey, rugby in England. The medical field is becoming more focused on cumulative injury and what can happen if you don't create the right period of rest.

The level of focus of Fernando - because it's Fernando and it's Spain - was extreme. We completely supported everything that the doctors wanted to do. He had an accident here, everybody knows that. He was, as is always the case with a potential head injury, he was sedated here. He went to the hospital and was sedated, that's a completely normal process. He had a completely clear CT scan and then a completely clear MRI and at no stage during the inspection process at the hospital was their any indication of any damage to his brain.

There was rumours of electrocution. I can tell you when a human is electrocuted there's a particular enzyme that elevates, it stays there for 48 hours. It is a scientific fact that if a human gets electrocuted this enzyme goes up. It was completely normal for the duration [of his hospital stay]. There was categorically no sort of electrocution. There was, and we have the reference, a fan stood on the corner with his son who has communicated with us in the last few days to say it was extremely gusty in that corner. In all his previous runs Fernando was saying it's tricky because the wind is moving the car around.

Our conclusions that it was related more to wind was based on his comments and the comments of a third party. If you then ask the question why was he in hospital for three days? It's because there was a period of unconsciousness, it was relatively short. The G figures of the accident were significantly less in his helmet than they were in the car. Significantly less is less than half of the accelerometers in his ears. The head restraint is primarily designed for forward and aft movement and this movement [moves head from side to side] is what occurred. So it was surprising that they wanted to be so careful. There are reports of some inability for recall - that's again normal when you are shaken like this. He's completely lucid, talking, wants to drive, wants to cope, wants to go testing, all the rest of it. The doctor said if we really want to be sure and we want to give him the best chance of going to Australia and there not being any conditions is to rest him. We're not going to go against the wishes of a doctor and it's as simple as that.

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We have a detailed analysis of the car. There are those amongst you who know that data acquisition on a modern grand prix car gives you the ability to see the loss of tyre pressure, the loss of downforce, any condition which is going to trigger an accident will be picked up by telemetry. We detected nothing - we detected nothing in the analysis of the componentry. I personally contacted the FIA with Charlie on Monday, suggested that we review the situation. So again, the involvement of the FIA is by ourselves. There is only one piece of footage, it is off the circuit system. The quality of the footage, it is so poor it would not electronically transmit. We will look at that but it's not very informative. That is the facts.

At what point was he unconscious?

When he came to rest all we know is that the radio was on and we could hear him breathing, but there was no other noises. They are saying seconds, not specific, but seconds.

That was from the initial blow to the wall?

There were two G readings when his head hit one side of the cockpit and then the other side of the cockpit. There is some theory it was like a whiplash, but there was no damage at all. Even a minor concussion will be picked up on CT scans and there was absolutely nothing.

Will he be racing in Australia?

I can't foresee any reason why not but I'm not the doctor. There will be some tests, there is a process laid down within the FIA and I can't see any reason why he just won't sail through it. It's not for me to say yes or no.

Why has McLaren decided not release the information of the impact in terms of G?

The FIA media representative asked to release the figures, they weren't extreme, we're not hiding anything - as I said to you, in due course we will share them but it's not appropriate. We are trying to do a thorough disciplined job and then suddenly as you do a very thorough, disciplined job of what happened prioritising the drivers health, people are saying we're concealing, that this happened, that happened - it's just complete fabrication, most of it is complete fabrication, I've told you the facts.

Best chance of Australia is to rest and miss this test?

I said 'best chance of'. I mean it's not 'he's not going' but it's there's a procedure under the FIA that they evaluate a driver after this sort of thing and probably he would pass. He had the accident a short time ago. Would anyone say it was common sense to bring Fernando here? No. So after that we put it down the road, it's not for us to evaluate.

Have the doctors said he will sail through those tests or is there a chance he will miss Australia?

It's unquantifiable, is what they said. It's all just normal recovery process and would be normal for any driver to sail through, especially as there's no structural damage.

Sebastian Vettel said Alonso took a sharp right into the wall. Would the wind be enough to make a sharp right into the wall?

I can't answer the question - all we can say is the actual third party videoed everything going on because his son was complaining about how cold it was. So we can see how gusty and windy it was. As I said, Fernando had said [the wind] had been pitching the car around. So I can't tell you. We have no data to suggest anything broke, we don't have any optical things. We understand what Vettel said but as far as we can see there was no abnormal steering input, or anything like this.

Do you have doubt there was something broken with the car?

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Did he have any loss of memory?

I told you, there's some loss of memory but nothing abnormal and he's recovering every single day. It's not abnormal in these situations.

Do you think the FIA [inaudiable]?

First of all, I initiated the conversation with the FIA. We have no problem showing the FIA anything, this is not an issue. I'm not super sensitive to it but we seem to be - we are - following an incredibly professional, we think, process of determining every single thing that was involved in the accident. Parallel to that, as it's Fernando in Spain, every doctor wants to be involved in some sort of diagnostic process. We're just letting this unfold but he's completely find. The only thing we are supporting is just a recovery period - simple as that.

Did he have any neck damage?

No, nothing. He's devoid of all injuries.

You explained on your press release that Fernando lost it on the astroturf and then to the inside. Do you have any indication how he then changed again, apparently, the car's direction?

What we can't see is anything illogical. He brakes into the corner, he changes gear down into the corners and then the accident starts to happen. We can forensically determine what happened other than nothing broke and there was nothing abnormal that we could see. If there had been good footage it would have maybe been more relevant but the accident was very fast. It was something between two and three seconds. I don't think there was any stood on the corner, I don't think there's anyone in a position to be authoritative about what happened. And there's certainly nothing coming from the data.

Do you have anything on the car which can record wind speed through that corner?

We don't record wind speed on the car.

What does Fernando remember?

We haven't had that conversation with him yet. He is pushing very hard to get into the car and saying I want to test, but the doctors are saying don't test. So the parents said they will take him home instead. There is a time and a place, and I don't think that we don't have complete conviction that our data does not show car failure, which would be more concerning for us.

Would we have put Jenson in the car today if we had any concern of that? No. We need to wait for the appropriate time, but all he wants to do is race and test. It is much better to put his recovery first and analysis second. It won't change anything so it will be better once he has thought it through. He is certainly not saying the car broke or anything.

So Fernando was conscious before the crash?

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How would we know? Every single input into the car was normal. Changing down gear, steering, braking… there is nothing we can see that is abnormal. Jenson looked at the figures and said 'well, that's a bit strange' but what's a bit strange when you are wrestling with the car being destabilised by the wind? Yes, we can guess, yes we can surmise and speculate, but the only thing we can comment on is the actual facts as we know them. And that's what I'm trying to do.

I am not protecting McLaren, I am not protecting Fernando, or concealing anything. These are the things we know. We can categorically say he has no injury. We can categorically say he did not suffer an electric shock. We can categorically say the car, we believe, did not fail. There are some things we can say, but everything after that becomes subjective and I don't want to be subjective because there's no point at this stage.

In terms of what the doctors have told McLaren, how severe is Fernando's concussion?

He is not even concussed.

The team's statement said he was concussed.

The technical definition of a concussion you can see in a scan. The possibility is that the change of direction happened so fast that it was actually like a sort of whiplash of the brain. It didn't actually touch anything, it didn't bruise, didn't bleed… it is a medical situation. I am not trying to conceal anything. It is not appropriate for me to talk about it. I'm just telling you the facts. He is physically perfect with no damage whatsoever. No concussion, no nothing … He had symptoms at one stage, but nothing that shows.

What sort of timeline are you expecting with this FIA inquiry?

There isn't an FIA inquiry. The FIA were interested in looking at the helmet position in relation to the structures. We want to share everything to satisfy the FIA and we are being thorough.

What sort of timeline is involved?

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It was set up on Monday to talk about it tomorrow when Charlie is here. This is not a formal enquiry.

The team's press release said there were 15 seconds between the impact and Fernando's car coming to rest.

What you can see is that he hits flat on with the front wheel, he slides along and then the back hits. We can see that inn the data and we know that from first impact to stationary, we can categorically say was 15 seconds.

Is that the period you're looking at when you say he was breathing but not conscious?

No, no, no. The only time was when he came to a standstill and the radio was on and we could hear him breathing.

Have the doctors told you when you will know if he can compete in Australia?

You've just asked the same question in a different way. Every single day he feels better and every day is closer to it. In normal circumstances, if it was a grand prix, he would probably be racing. I don't want to be quoted on that as I am just saying that there is no point in being here, go through a recovery, he will appear in Australia and he will go through the FIA test at some point.

Are you saying he was kept in hospital for three days because he's Fernando Alonso and not because of any injury?

Head injuries have taken centre stage in the world for lots of reasons. Head injuries are right up there, people are super careful about head injuries and there is more and more evidence that you've got to be worried about cumulative … what happens down the road. Because of that, we were absolutely supportive, let's make quite sure everything is perfect before he was discharged. That is what the doctors wanted to do. And that's what we just said, you decide.

Just to be clear then. Fernando is physically and medically, in terms of all the examinations, fine? Are they cautious because nothing has shown up in the scans?

That's why they are cautious. The level of cautiousness that you would expect any athlete to have. Certainly we applaud the performance and care the doctors had. We are absolutely sure he got the best medical care, absolutely sure he's absolutely fine. We know where we are on the car, we have discounted many things and we want to be thorough. But, as I said, this was just a press briefing and we are trying to be completely transparent because some articles are saying we are concealing something. We are not concealing anything, we are trying to be professional.

You mentioned the video from a third party. Can you see the incident in the background?

No. What happened was people started to tweet that there was no wind, and then this person said 'Everybody else wasn't there, I was there and it was very gusty and window' and sent us the video, which if Charlie wants to see is no problem.

Kevin Magnussen is driving in Alonso's stead this week. He would be driving in Australia if Fernando is not cleared?

We have Kevin here and he will test. I am not sure how things will unfold the rest of the four days, but effectively if Fernando didn't drive then Kevin would. It is the sort of preparation you would expect us to take to cover all eventualities, as opposed to this being right up there. Why would we want to put Kevin in the car without him having driven it.