By Christopher Lines
MANAMA, Bahrain — McLaren driver Fernando Alonso will miss this weekend’s Bahrain Grand Prix, and possibly the following race in China, as a result of broken ribs and other injuries sustained during a crash in the season opener earlier this month.
Alonso arrived in Bahrain hoping to prove his fitness, but after consultation with FIA medical officers, he was ruled out Thursday and will be replaced by Belgian rookie Stefan Vandoorne, who will make his Formula One racing debut.
Alonso said he will undergo further FIA tests late next week to determine if he is fit enough to race in China on April 17.
The Spanish two-time world champion walked away from the accident at the Australian Grand Prix despite his car being launched into the air by a collision with the Haas of Esteban Gutierrez, hitting a concrete barrier and flipping over twice before coming to rest in a smoking wreck.
Initially he thought he would be certain to race in Bahrain, but scans revealed broken ribs on his left side and a pneumothorax — a buildup of air between the lung and chest wall.
“When you come here and you cannot even try it’s always sad, but it’s understandable and I respect the decision,” Alonso said. “I try until the last moment to be able to race, at least to try in the practice. There has been some painful days, with some pain at home, but I was ready to go through this pain somehow in the car and make sure I could race, because at the end of the day the pain is manageable if you don’t think too much probably and (with) the adrenaline of driving, but there are some other risks.
“So it’s a risk management that I understand, to minimize everything is the logical thing to do.”
There is a two-week break between Bahrain and the third round of the championship in China, but Alonso said he will not participate in Shanghai if there was a risk of compounding the injuries.
“First of all is the safety and then the performance, so hopefully everything is okay but it’s something we need to see with the next test,” Alonso said.
“The pneumothorax is gone more or less but I have some rib fractures, so because of that there are the risks of driving, because Formula One is a very unique sport, a unique position on the car, and the G-forces that a fracture could move into the lung as well, so it’s not like a broken leg or broken arm, that you can deal with the pain, this is in the chest where some organs are there and we cannot do much more.”
His replacement Vandoorne turned 24 last week. He was GP2 champion last season and has been a test and reserve driver for McLaren since 2014.