Alonso race ban blights Formula One


Whatever we think of Fernando Alonso, his response to the recent disbarment by the FIA to race in the Bahrain GP was laudable. He apparently performed a ‘drop and roll’ in front of Derek Warwick – followed by 50 press ups in 30 seconds – in an attempt to impress the stewards he was fine to drive.

A 5 day old scan revealing cracked ribs meant the Spanish matador was refused the opportunity to ply his trade and tame the Toro that is the McLaren-Honda.

This decision embodies the fundamental flaws with modern Formula One. Growing up and subsequently being involved in F1, the drivers to me were heroes. I remember a number of them fighting the introduction of seatbelts – why? Because they believed it was better to be thrown tens of metres from a crashed car than be trapped inside a potential burning wreck. Pass me a pack of Marlborough red please.

But I digress.

Of course the 21st century PC world in which we live does not allow us to send our sportsmen and women to the field of battle with more than a 0.000012567% chance of death – and maybe this is more civilized than the world of sport many of us grew up with. BUT – there comes a time when enough is enough.

As TJ13 predicted following the FIA’s medical officers pronouncement on Alonso prior to the Bahrain weekend, it could be the Spanish world champion is again barred from climbing aboard the bucking bronco of the McLaren-Honda for te upcoming Chinese GP.

The double world champion admitted yesterday, “While I hope I’ll be back in the cockpit on Friday, until I get the all-clear from the doctors to race – whenever that may be – we cannot assume anything, but I’m continuing to prepare for the race weekend as normal.”

Eric, the believable, Boullier is also uncertain as to whether Alonso will be permitted to drive this weekend. “Fernando has been recuperating at home and training as usual, and we, like him, hope to see him back in the car.” Yet the Frenchman is philosophical about the possible latest ruling of the FIA’s medical officer. “We’ll accept the outcome [of his examination] – whatever that may be – and plan accordingly.”

With closed cockpits and halo protection on the horizon, Formula One is about to enter a new era of uber safety, which for many is an obsessive and unnecessary path to take.

And all this whilst the F1 FIA safety delegate believes its appropriate to race in the eye of a tropical storm AND then fails to deploy the safety car when marshals are working just 40 feet from the race track in monsoon like conditions – appears somewhat ‘au contraire’.

Fernando is not some punch drink boxer who doesn’t know when to quit – he cracked a couple of ribs in Australia four weeks ago – and it should be HE and McLaren-Honda who decide whether he is fit to race at the Chinese GP – and not the muddled minded FIA dodderers who appear to be trying super hard to make up for their blunders during the 2014 Japanese GP.

So much for Christian Horner’s campaign to ‘make the drivers heroes’ once again.

21 responses to “Alonso race ban blights Formula One

  1. As an active member of the Stand 21 Driver Safety Foundation,, and having learned from the best medical people in motorsport, I believe that the F1 rulers here are addressing the wrong kind of safety and totally agree that Alonso and HIS doctor should make the decision, and not someone on the F1 political circus’ payroll. There is a huge difference between a man suffering a recent concussion and one with a cracked rib, and if the medics in F1 cannot tell the difference, there is a problem even greater than simple perception.

  2. Alonso did not “merely” crack a couple of ribs in his accident. His rib was displaced enough to poke a hole in the lining of his lung, causing air to enter the space between the lining and the lung which then squeezes the lung into a smaller space. His pneumothorax was not large enough to need any other treatment but the hole was there and the ramifications of racing before it has healed are much greater than just racing with a cracked rib. If air is able to get into the space between the lung and its lining and due to pressure is unable to come out again, the lung underneath can be completely squashed. This can even effect the good lung on the other side which means you have minimal working lung tissue…unsurprisingly working lungs are a necessary requirement! It is not an issue of pain…it is an issue of life and death. If doctors had known he had a pneumothorax after the accident he would not have been allowed to fly home until they were sure that he was stable because of this risk!

    This is not the same as a broken wrist or ankle…or even a broken arm or leg…

    It’s not even the same as concussion which can be difficult to quantify as we have seen in recent times because the driver can hide the symptoms…there is no definitive test for concussion.

    This is a serious lung injury…not because of the driver’s symptoms but because of what can be seen on a CT scan – air in the wrong place of the lung!

    • It is exactly this sort of detail that needs to be reported widely so the public know that he is taking a risk with his life rather than the FIA doctors being over-protective. There are always two sides to a story, seems this side is much bigger than I, and I’m sure many others, realised…

    • Which makes Brundle’s tweet about ‘in his day, drivers would just take two painkillers and jump in the car and go racing’…. Even more ridiculous.

    • I think what hasn’t been reported on much, is that the FIA missed it the first place, and it was Alonso’s sister who picked up on it and told him to get a second opinion. I think that is the real story here.

    • The pneumothorax was not caused by a rib punching a hole but by the compression of the ribcage as a result of the impact. It must have been a very minor pneumothorax otherwise he would still be in hospital to have the air extracted which forms a pocket outside of the lung.
      Punctured lung by a rib is a very serious pneumothorax and with that he would never have been able to do 50 pushups as a demonstration in Bahrain. These are injuries that can’t be hidden because they hurt like hell (I know from own experience) Impossible to do quick pushups unless completely drugged up with morfine 😉

      • That’s a brave statement Sanne. Pneumothoraces are either traumatic or spontaneous with the latter category being very rare in young healthy individuals. A pneumothorax is by definition; air within the (normally only potential) space between the parietal and visceral pleural membranes. The air cannot get there magically by chest compression – there has to be either a defect in the visceral pleura allowing air to enter from a lacerated lung, or there must be a parietal pleural rent AND a chest wall defect so the air can enter the pleural space from the outside. Fernando didn’t have a open chest wound, so therefore he had a tiny tear in his visceral pleura. He has a radiologically proven broken rib which may cause anything from a tiny visceral pleural tear to a massive laceration, and is almost certainly going to be the cause for his small pneumothorax. I’ve seen many people do sit ups and push ups two weeks post rib fracture without being drugged up on morphine – but to go out and play football, bungy jump, fight in a boxing ring, or crash an F1 car again would be somewhat less advisable with fortnight old sharp rib fracture edges adjacent to an existing visceral pleural wound. I would presume the medical advice was to wait for the rib to heal before subjecting himself to potential crash forces. I agree that if he’s able to do 50 push ups then he’s probably capable of withstanding the 100 minutes of an F1 race, but not another high speed shunt without significant risk of further lung damage at the same site due to the known rib fracture.

        • When you compress the ribcage extremly while lungs are filled with air the lungtissue can damage and a little gap can occur, When it’s a small pocket of air it will cure by itself quickly. When it’s a large pocket of air you will get a a tube into the cavity through which the air can be sucked out. This can take 8 to 10 days. Just talking out of own expirience. What I mean to say is that with seriously collapsed lung you won’t be able to do these pushups, no way. Far too painfull. So just this tells me he did not have a very serious pneumothorax. I was not talking about exersizing with buised or cracked ribs. All depends which ribs are damaged. The higher up, the more painfull. with bruised lower ribs you can do quite a lot of training as I know from own expirience. any martial artist can tell you this ;)Think you misunderstood me, or I was not clear

          • Common things occur commonly…we know that Alonso had rib fractures and a small pneumothorax. Rib fractures are a very common cause of pneumothorax, therefore it is only logical to assume that they were the cause…

            It is possible to get a pneumothorax from a blast injury, and Alonso’s accident did look as violent as a bomb blast…but it is still much more likely that his pneumothorax was due to his rib fracture and not just to pressure. Then there are the occasional people who don’t fit with the 99.99%…nothing in medicine is 100% certain.

            I understand that you are talking from experience but so am I…25 years of working in Accident and Emergency…and rib fractures are by far the most common cause of a traumatic pneumothorax, Then again, bomb blasts aren’t very common where I live, but car accidents are.

            Lastly, no matter what caused it, it needed adequate time to heal to decrease to risk of causing it to recur. It didn’t matter if it was small, there was still a risk of it getting bigger, even just in living your everyday life, let alone getting into a racing car.

  3. Safety is more important than anything. Who will take his blood on their hands if he dies? Untill completely fit he can sit on the bench.

  4. Hadn’t realised that the driver steward had the expertise to pass judgement on medical matters, too.
    Heaven only knows some of them are barely even competent to handle what they’re supposed to be at the trough for….

    • do you really believe that “a driver steward” passed his judgement on these medical matters? if you do I don’t think you have the slightest idea of how things are done and decided upon by an organisation like the FIA.

      • Yes, stewards have passed ruling on whether Fernando is allowed to race. In China, too:

        “Therefore, the Stewards have taken advice from the FIA Medical Delegate (Jean-Charles Piette), who in consultation with the Chief Medical Officer (CMO) of the Chinese Grand Prix, and the driver’s doctors advise, that he considers the driver provisionally fit to take part in the event.

        “Given the exceptional circumstances, and having heard from the team, the Stewards have decided to exempt the driver from strict compliance with Art. 3(b) of Chapter II of Appendix L, relying instead on Art. 3(a),which has been satisfied.

        “Therefore driver Fernando Alonso will be allowed to participate […]”

  5. This is why we need a totally segregated medical team. The drivers will push their body beyond its limits and convince their Drs that they are fine while the management put pressure on their team of Drs to play down the hazards and allow racing. I like Alonso and I love his fighting spirit but in this he is wrong, if the Dr says don’t race…then I am sorry but you had better get a good seat in the garage and just sit it out. Like many of you I am a follower of Motogp,those guys get a slight bump…say a broken collar bone or maybe a leg in pot…and they race, its like the black knight in Monty python.. ‘Tis but a scratch’ but is this the right way? I don’t know, but surely it effects your reactions and so must put other riders at risk. That’s the two sided coin and somewhere in the middle must be the right and proper way, not too much bubble wrap but just enough to keep everyone safe.

  6. “Marlboro Red”. In the UK they never tasted the same after the small Swiss-sourced cigs were replaced (1973 as best I recall) by larger versions assembled somewhere else. Not that I’ve smoked any for >20 years.
    However the brand itself is the most enduringly memorable sponsor in F1.

  7. Remember in 87 when Piquet wanted to race at San Marino after a huge crash in practice. Sid Watkins, President of the Medical Commision, declared him unfit to drive. Piquet tried to persuade officials to let him drive. Watkins threatened to resign if overruled.

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