Latest F1 news in brief – Wednesday

  • Was Alonso electrocuted?
    Was Alonso electrocuted?

    New cloud forms over Russian GP

  • Force India admits Q2 'difficult' for Melbourne
  • Doctors 'wise' to sideline Alonso – Tambay
  • Brundle questions 'very strange' Alonso saga
  • Former F1 driver says Alonso took '600 watt hit'
  • Red Bull eyes RB11 nose-job for Melbourne

New cloud forms over Russian GP
(GMM) A new cloud may be descending over the Russian grand prix.

Last year, although the Sochi race did take place, swirling speculation had suggested it was in doubt due to the Crimean crisis and the Malaysia Airlines MH17 disaster.

Now, Russian grand prix promoter OJSC Center Omega has cancelled the Sochi Autodrom's scheduled May round of the Red Bull Air Race, which is an obstacle-dodging event for aerobatic planes.

The promoter announced that the "current exchange rate situation" had affected the "balance between the operational costs and costs of the tickets".

Red Bull's Erich Wolf confirmed: "Due to the current situation with the international capital markets, our partners in Russia are facing extremely high exchange rates.

"This makes it impossible to set up an infrastructure fulfilling our high standards and also to provide our fans with tickets at affordable prices.

"Nevertheless we still hope to stage a race in Sochi in the future," he added.

Omega insisted that the Russian grand prix, scheduled for October of this year, remains the Sochi Autodrom's forthcoming "major event of the year".

Force India admits Q2 'difficult' for Melbourne
(GMM) Force India is expecting to be near the back of the grid at next weekend's Melbourne season opener.

Due to cash-flow and supplier trouble, the Silverstone based team's 2015 car was severely delayed, only making its debut at the final winter test last week.

Force India finished the 2014 season a strong sixth overall, just behind grandee McLaren, but technical boss Andrew Green admits 2015 will be more difficult because of the two missed tests at Jerez and Barcelona.

He said the team has been unable to "fine-tune" the setup of the VJM08 yet.

"The other teams are a step ahead of us," said Green, "so it's not ideal.

"It will be difficult for us to get into Q2" in Melbourne, he told Germany's Auto Motor und Sport.

"But I think points on Sunday are possible. We understand these new tires well, and we are able to rely on the (Mercedes) engine in the race," Green added.

Beyond that, Force India can begin to build up speed for the rest of the season, he insisted, as the team has had to begin the 2015 car's life with a basic cooling layout.

"We were very conservative because we did not have much room to maneuver," said Green.

Also in the pipeline is a shorter nose for the VJM08.

"In the past we always made strong starts to the season and then eased back a little," said operating officer Otmar Szafnauer. "This time we need to do it in reverse."

Doctors 'wise' to sideline Alonso – Tambay
(GMM) Fernando Alonso says he can "understand" why he has been sidelined for the Australian grand prix.

McLaren on Tuesday announced that, on the advice of the Spaniard's doctors, the risk of 'second impact syndrome' means the 33-year-old will sit out the first race of the new Honda-powered era.

"It will be tough not to be in Australia," Alonso told his followers on Twitter, "but I understand the recommendations.

"A second impact in less than 21 days 'NO'," he said. 21 days after Alonso's February crash would be 15 March — the day of the Melbourne race.

The 21-day issue is a pertinent one. Protocol in sports such as rugby dictates that concussed athletes not play again for at least 21 days.

Lotus driver Romain Grosjean told RMC Sport that, although Alonso's crash did not seem to be particularly heavy, fully lateral impacts are "extremely rare".

"Almost always you crash with some sort of angle," said the Frenchman, "resulting in damage.

"But when you hit the wall completely parallel, and the car does not break, suddenly all of the energy that is supposed to be absorbed by the carbon is absorbed completely by Fernando," he added.

Former F1 driver Patrick Tambay agrees, even if McLaren argues that Alonso is completely uninjured.

Referring to Alonso's advice to sit out Melbourne, the former Ferrari driver said: "It is a wise recommendation.

"Doctors tend to protect themselves as well, because in the case of another accident, they might be responsible for what happens.

"At the same time, on technical and sporting terms and what we have seen so far, it's really not a big loss for Alonso to be on the safe side physically and then return fully fit later on," Tambay added.

Alonso will be replaced in Melbourne by McLaren reserve Kevin Magnussen.

"Shame about the circumstances," the Dane wrote on Twitter, "but still I'm so excited to be racing in Melbourne. Can't wait!"

Alonso replied: "Best of luck at the race mate!"

Brundle questions 'very strange' Alonso saga
(GMM) The world of F1 has been split down the middle by the Fernando Alonso crash saga.

In one camp are those who back the official story, believing McLaren-Honda that a gust of wind blew him off the Barcelona circuit and that the subsequent impact with the wall knocked him out.

But arguably the biggest camp belongs to those who believe there is, at the very least, more to the story.

Firstly, there are conflicting reports about the speed and trajectory at which Alonso lost control, and McLaren has neither confirmed nor denied the theories by releasing any telemetry.

Dennis did, however, admit that Jenson Button looked at the data and declared it "strange".

"Something is amiss," former McLaren driver and now leading British commentator Martin Brundle told the Telegraph. "Something doesn't add up.

"It's a very strange situation. There's a lot of smoke and mirrors around."

According to Brundle, the basic question to answer is whether Alonso crashed and was then injured, or did he suffer a medical issue prior to hitting the wall?

"Is it cause or is it effect? We don't know," he said. "Everybody is a little bit coy about it so something isn't quite right."

For instance, while team boss Eric Boullier initially confirmed Alonso had been concussed, Ron Dennis later backtracked, insisting there was "no concussion".

But now, McLaren says Alonso is sitting out Australia because of the risk of 'second impact syndrome'.

The Mayo Clinic defines the syndrome as the risk of death due to "experiencing a second concussion before signs and symptoms of a first concussion have resolved".

Notwithstanding that Dennis denied Alonso even suffered a concussion, he also explained last week that the 33-year-old is now "physically perfect".

"There is no concussion, anything. He had the symptoms at one stage but nothing that shows" now.

At the very least, McLaren might justly be accused of communicating badly.

"It has been dealt with catastrophically badly," agreed Oskari Saari, a pundit for Finnish television MTV3, "which is strange, because they are experienced and good communicators."

Saari also revealed that McLaren's doctor Aki Hintsa has been in Spain in the past days, "participating in the decision-making" about his recovery.

He added: "There are always a terrific amount of rumors in F1, but there was no electric shock or anything. It is a concussion.

"The risk (of Alonso not competing in) Malaysia is lower, but I'm still a bit skeptical about it."

Former F1 driver says Alonso took '600 watt hit'
(GMM) Officially, a gust of wind blew Fernando Alonso off the track on February 22, resulting in a concussion that has sidelined him for Melbourne.

Unofficially, rumors and doubt are running wild.

Sky Italia, the F1 broadcaster, claims the Spanish driver has confided to close friends and family that he suffered a "major shock in his spine" before losing control of his McLaren-Honda and striking the Barcelona wall.

The broadcaster made clear that Alonso did not say specifically that he was electrocuted, but the report adds weight to the theory that there is more than meets the eye to the controversial crash saga.

Fabrizio Barbazza, an Italian who had a brief F1 career in the early 90s, is quoted by La Repubblica newspaper: "Fernando took a 600 watt hit with serious consequences.

"Difficulty focusing and temporary obstruction of the veins."

Another disparaging voice belongs to Rene Arnoux, a winner of seven grands prix.

"The recommendation of Alonso's doctors did not surprise me in the least," he said at the Geneva Motor Show, "because I am convinced that Fernando had a physical problem before the accident.

"I have driven in formula one," said the former Ferrari driver, "I know what I'm talking about.

"The impact was lateral, more of a glancing blow, and it does not explain the damage (to Alonso). I firmly believe that Alonso felt wrong at the steering wheel.

"That there was wind was then used as a welcome excuse."

A neurosurgeon at Barcelona's Quiron Dexeus hospital, Dr Roberto Belvis, also furrows his brow at McLaren saying it is the risk of 'second impact syndrome' (SIS) that has sidelined Alonso.

"Preventing SIS is not logical if there are no symptoms of concussion. Once recovered, if there are no headaches, concentration problems or if the patient is speaking correctly, then there is no danger of a second impact," he said.

Another theory, he said, is that Alonso's loss of consciousness remains unexplained.

"If there was an unexplained loss of consciousness," Dr Belvis told the Spanish sports daily AS, "it is prudent for Alonso to not drive for three or four weeks. And to continue having tests.

"But it doesn't make sense to tell the media that he is 100 per cent recovered, but he will not compete due to SIS."

Red Bull eyes RB11 nose-job for Melbourne
(GMM) Red Bull is scrambling to give its 2015 car a nose-job before its Melbourne race debut next weekend.

Unlike most of the other major teams, the 2014 runner-ups ran in Barcelona for the final winter test last week with only minor upgrades for its RB11.

Auto Motor und Sport reports: "The planned major upgrade stayed in the pits, because the short nose had failed the team's internal crash test."

Indeed, after the field of 2015 was launched, the paddock consensus was that a Williams-style ultra-short nose would be widely copied this year.

Red Bull duly designed its first major upgrade for the RB11 around a new short-nose concept, but the solution is reportedly more troublesome when it comes to satisfying the FIA's mandatory front impact tests.

So if the nose cannot for now be raced, "It did not make sense to modify the rest of the car", Auto Motor und Sport added. "The new package is based entirely on the ultra-short nose."

If Red Bull can get the nose through the crash test before Melbourne, "sources claim it will be a big step forward" for the RB11, the report said.

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