Fernando Alonso has been deemed medically unfit to race in Sunday’s Bahrain Grand Prix after his spectacular 200-mph crash in Melbourne, and admitted last night that he may also miss the race in China two weeks later.
Doctors for the FIA, Formula One’s governing body, conducted a 90-minute examination of the Spaniard and concluded his fractured left ribs were too great a risk.
They feared another accident could leave him with a punctured lung.
The view of Alonso and his McLaren team appeared to be that he could have raced, as his injuries did not present a danger to the other drivers, but they respected the FIA decision.
The accident, a fortnight ago in Australia, was so severe that Alonso suffered a small pneumothorax - the presence of air or gas between the lungs and chest wall - causing the lung to collapse.
This injury has now cleared but, after two chest scans, in the past 10 days, his ribs have not healed fully.
Alonso said he had been in considerable pain since Australia but was determined to race. He will stay in Bahrain this weekend, helping his McLaren replacement, reserve driver Stoffel Vandoorne, and watching how the team operate.
The two-time champion will need more scans before the next race in Shanghai and conceded there was no guarantee he would recover in time.
“It’s disappointing,” Alonso said. “We love the sport and when you come here and cannot even try, it is always sad butunderstandable. I respect thedecision.
“I tried until the last moment to be able to race. There were some painful days, some pain at home, but I was ready to go through this pain somehow in the car. Pain is manageable if you don’t think too much."
The 34-year-old admitted he was “lucky to be alive” after his crash with the Haas car of Esteban Gutierrez. After the initial impact, Alonso’s McLaren barrel-rolled across the gravel trap at turn three and into the barrier.
Alonso was given the all-clear to leave the circuit on Sunday in Melbourne with only some pain in his knees before travelling back to Europe.
He had a scan in Spain that revealed the small pneumothorax.
Another scan on Monday showed his rib fractures had not healed.
Alonso admitted that the only way drivers could race on in Formula One despite the danger was to blank out the risks to their safety.
He said: “We don’t think about the risk at any point. You see it now. I have broken ribs but I am here with some pain and it is not easy to sleep. You understand that. This is motorsport and anything can happen any time you jump in the car.
”This is the second race Alonso has missed in the past two years. The 34-year-old had to sit out the 2015 round in Australia after his mysterious testing accident in Barcelona. In that crash, the cause of which remains unexplained, Alonso suffered a concussion and had to be airlifted to hospital.
A spokesman for the FIA said yesterday: “Two sets of chest CT scans were compared and it was decided that there was insufficient resolution of the signs to allow him to compete on safety grounds. A repeat chest scan has been requested before the Chinese Grand Prix and the results will be considered before allowing him to race there.”
It is another disappointment for Alonso on his ill-fated return to McLaren. He rejoined a year ago wanting to win a third world championship, but his hopes have been marred by two major accidents and brought no podium finishes.
McLaren boss Ron Dennis is flying in to the Gulf state this morning; an important race for the team given they are co-owned by Bahrain’s sovereign wealth fund.
Vandoorne will make his debut in Formula One but has driven the Bahrain International Circuit before, winning here in GP2 in the last two years. The 24-year-old Belgian was in Japan testing.