The Unsolved Mystery of Alonso's Testing Crash
Written by Dan Jones, Edited by Vyas Ponnuri
Fernando Alonso may have had the most remarkable Formula One career of any driver in history. From the man who dethroned Michael Schumacher, to his bitter McLaren stints, to his Ferrari wonders, his failed driver transfers, Fernando Alonso had certainly been there, done that, in Formula One. But Alonso’s career comes with many unexplained answers. What really happened with Lewis Hamilton in 2007? Why did he make bizarre transfers to McLaren, and even later, Aston Martin? Was he really unfavoured by Ferrari? However, the most bizarre, but potentially unexplained mystery still lingers - His “accident” during pre-season testing at Barcelona in 2015.
The context - Fernando Alonso had made a shock move to McLaren for 2015, who had paired up with old friends, Honda, who were making their return to the Formula One grid, a much anticipated and exciting collaboration, particularly with world champions Jenson Button and the returning Alonso forming their line-up. Although, it would be the Barcelona pre-season test swiftly becoming the event of interest.
It was day four of the test, and Alonso had suffered a crash on the exit of the long sweeping right-hander, Turn 3, hitting the inside wall at medium speed, and had to be airlifted to a local hospital, where he was stationed for three days. A hefty incident, it seemed, which McLaren claimed was caused by: ‘a sudden gust of wind disrupting the car’s downforce.’ Yes wind has played a significant factor in F1, think back to Max Verstappen spinning into the gravel at the 2022 Spanish Grand Prix, but a gust of wind so strong, completely diverting Alonso’s car into the wall so heavily, that he would have to be airlifted to hospital? It all seemed a bit extreme.
McLaren gave little more information, and Alonso would later disprove the wind theory. ‘Even a hurricane will not move the car at that speed.’ The Spaniard would firmly deny a gust of wind playing any factor in that incident, calling it ‘a guess’. It wasn’t driver error, So what caused it? What would be strong enough to cause an accident of this magnitude?
And as information poured out, proceedings became stranger. Alonso was knocked unconscious immediately after the crash, according to McLaren. However, Alonso would deny this too, claiming the only time he was concussed was at the hospital. McLaren were not revealing much information, and the information they did reveal, did not add-up with Alonso’s testimony. And when Alonso would be forced to sit out the Australian Grand Prix, things made even less sense.
So what was Alonso’s account? He claimed the steering had locked rounding the corner, which put him directly in the wall. The theory had significantly more merit than McLaren’s, but still didn’t make complete sense. It makes Alonso crashing into the inside wall much more feasible than a gust of wind, and why the impact could have been so strong, if Alonso was approaching the barrier at an awkward angle. But there are still doubts. How would this have caused Alonso to supposedly go unconscious at 150kph? Surely an impact that strong wouldn’t force someone out for three days? And how McLaren had absolutely no data that backed up this theory? It still didn’t add up.
And as accusations grew stronger and stronger, accounts got more bizarre. There were claims Alonso woke up speaking Italian, thinking he was still driving for Ferrari, another account claiming he woke up thinking it was 1995. Alonso, unsurprisingly, denied all this, but with the pick and mix of accounts in this incident, as well as all sides contradicting each other, it’s not sure what to believe. Alonso maintained his claim that he remembered the accident, and remembers the marshals switching his car off. It still doesn’t make full sense. McLaren claimed he was conscious once on the way to the hospital, he didn’t. The statements never seemed to match.
Another theory says that Alonso was electrocuted. It was denied by both sides, but still has much plausibility. Ex-F1 driver, Fabrizio Barbazza claimed that Alonso ‘took a 600 watt hit’ from the MGU-K, a component Honda would still be struggling with. Reportedly, Alonso told his friends he felt ‘a major shock in his spine.’ It would partially explain why the crash seemed so out of control, and would clearly explain his unconsciousness. However, both McLaren and Alonso do deny this, with much unavailable data unable to prove or disprove this theory.
Whatever happened in the crash, we are unlikely to know. Whether it was simply a gust of wind, whether it was a mechanical failure, whether he was electrocuted, this will likely remain unexplained. But McLaren and Alonso’s completely different accounts of the incident do hint at the fact there is information unknown to us, whether that could be the cause of the crash, his unconscious state, or the information when he regained consciousness, there is no definitive answer that both sides have agreed on.
Fernando Alonso has had a career full of questions, but no answers, however this might be the most unexplained one. And once Alonso calls time on his career and puts pen to paper, we may finally know what happened at the 2015 Pre-Season Test. Let us know, what do you think happened in this bizarre incident?