As the team prepared for Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix, the opening race of the new Formula One season and one that Alonso will miss because of the accident, Dennis said: “It was not the best performance by me. I understand why the press beat me up for being inaccurate. I wanted to be open and honest. I failed. But it is my objective to try to be as honest as possible in future.” Dennis, McLaren’s chairman and CEO, added: “There is a very understandable concern about the complexities of a second concussion – OK, he had concussion – within 21 days of the first impact.
“This is all something very difficult to quantify, and certainly not within my capability. We know we have a mountain to climb and we’re in the process of climbing it. It’s massively complex. We’re not where we want to be but we will get to where we want to be given time.”
As for when Alonso finally makes his racing debut for McLaren, Dennis said: “It is not my decision. But as far as I know Fernando will be in Malaysia. I have every reason to believe he will be there. I spoke to him on the way over here. He wants to race there. I hope he does, but it is his decision, not mine.”
After the crash at the Circuit de Catalunya Alonso was airlifted to hospital, where he remained for three days. The team racing director, Eric Boullier, confirmed that he had suffered concussion, but four days after the accident Dennis told the media: “Fernando is completely devoid of injury. I’m not trying to conceal anything. I’m just telling you the facts: he is physically perfect. There is no concussion. There was a period of unconsciousness. It was relatively short. There were rumours of electrocution but there was absolutely, categorically no electrocution.”
McLaren and new engine suppliers Honda have been dismayed by Alonso’s absence from the race, which will launch the season this weekend. McLaren are desperate for success after finishing fifth last season with a Mercedes engine.
Meanwhile, the Sauber team retired to bed here on Wednesday night not knowing who would be driving for them this season. On Wednesday morning the supreme court in Victoria, Australia, ruled that the Dutch driver Giedo van der Garde had the right to drive. Sauber appealed against the decision but after a 45-minute hearing Justices Simon Whelan, David Beach and Anne Ferguson decided that they would reach a decision after weighing up the case overnight.
Van der Garde, 29, was relieved of his role as test driver at the end of last season as Sauber announced that Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr would be their drivers in 2015. Both men bring in considerable sponsorship money. The cash-strapped smaller teams are increasingly reliant on “pay drivers” to keep them going. But Van der Garde argued he had proof that he had been offered a race seat for the new season and an arbitration panel in Switzerland recently ordered Sauber “to refrain from taking action” that would stop him from driving.
That was followed by the court case in Australia in which Justice Clyde Croft found in favour of Van der Garde.
Sauber’s team principal, Monisha Kaltenborn – a lawyer – said: “We are disappointed with this decision and now need to take time to understand what it means and the impact it will have on the start of our season. “What we cannot do is jeopardise the safety of our team, or any other driver on the track, by having an unprepared driver in a car that has now been tailored to two other assigned drivers.”
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