Considering that the mystery surrounding Fernando Alonso’s Barcelona accident and its causes were great conversation subjects before, now things have become even more confusing after the Spaniard was the main focus of the Sepang driver’s press conference.
I love press conferences. It is in these moments that sportspeople or staff (in this case, the drivers) get to be one on one with a squadron of journalists ready to punish any mistake with their well-thought questions. The difference between a press conference and a straight on interview is that in those, the driver can’t simply stand up and leave if you challenge him… Or, of course, he can, but not without financial or other kinds of consequences.
The things drivers say can many times be interpreted in different ways or put in different contexts, and as a journalist, this allows you to be able to write interesting and inventive pieces, just like the analysis of a poem in high school allowed you to basically write whatever you wanted.
That’s why today’s press conference was a highlight that everyone, me included, was waiting for. It went ahead just hours after the official announcement about Alonso and Valtteri Bottas competing in Sepang after recovery from recent injuries was made.
Back to our main subject, Alonso. He was about to be interrogated thoroughly by journalists about his recovery, how is he doing at the moment, the team’s performances, as well as the actual accident and the causes behind it.
Starting with that faithful day in Barcelona, McLaren has come up with all kinds of excuses, surrounding the incident in mystery. Most recently, if I remember correctly – because with all things written about the subject, I’m not even that sure – the wind was blamed for the McLaren’s crash, while engineers were not able to find data suggesting a problem with the car. What we do know, however, was that Alonso has been unconscious – or so they say.
All kinds of gossip had been made: that the Spaniard was electrocuted in the car or that when arriving at the hospital he couldn’t remember anything of the past 20 years. Jokes were said as well, some of them suggesting Alonso would not be coming back after learning of the car’s bad performance in Australia – where Jenson Button was the last to cross the line.
All that has been written, read or said… All of it would come to nothing after today’s press conference, which Alonso attended sporting his already-known beard, although not as fluffy as it was in recent weeks. The other five drivers in the improvised room at the circuit were merely spectators in the whole affair.
The Spaniard began by saying that he is happy to be in Malaysia and that he knows how difficult the season will be for McLaren, but that he is ready to enjoy the weekend.
“We have to keep our feet on the ground, as we know we are not in a desired position at this time. The first few races will be like tests for us,” he said calmly, afterwards stating that he is “one of the happiest people in the world”.
Alonso was in remarkable form at the press conference. Calm, confident and even funny – a mood opposite the one Monisha Kaltenborn displayed two weeks ago, when she was facing questions regarding the contractual problems between her Sauber team and its former driver, Giedo van der Garde. “After the last month, I can probably say that I’m the best checked driver medically in history,” the Spaniard joked.
Thinks then turned serious, and Alonso appeared to be contradicting all that his team said lately as well as all the rumours. Regarding the biggest thing of all – that in the hospital he spoke in Italian thinking it was 1995 – he said it was not true and that he remembers everything that happened with the exception of four specific hours which he precisely named. He also said that he only lost consciousness after arriving in hospital – or in the ambulance, he doesn’t even remember – because of the medication used.
Of the accident, Alonso said he remembers it, which makes me wonder why didn’t he come out and say this earlier, choosing to let the team navigate the difficult explanations. The actual cause of the accident was revealed to be a very simple, almost childish-like.
“I had a problem with the steering in the 3rd corner – it was stuck to the right,” he said. Surely something like this would have been easily seen by engineers reading the car data right after the accident. Right? Well, it seems not!
Some of the things Alonso said were in line with the team’s views. He stated that data collected from the car did not indicate damage to it, which is peculiar. For the Malaysian Grand Prix, McLaren fitted the car with some extra sensors as precautionary measures, for the data to be as detailed as possible. “It clearly was a problem with the car, but it has not been found in the data until now,” Alonso said calmly, as if his life didn’t depend on it.
He firmly stated that he is “0% worried” for the repeat of the problem in Malaysia, dismissing the theory that strong winds were to blame for the accident – a theory which his team put forward. “A hurricane couldn’t have moved the car at that speed,” he said. That put a big smile on my face.
Alonso’s statements are in many ways different from McLaren’s. The mystery is now even bigger. The pieces to this puzzle will now begin to pile up together and lead to the true nature of this incident being revealed. Surely it can’t become even more curious than it is. Can it?