year's crash the least of Alonso's worries
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[March 23, 2017]
By Ian Ransom
MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Fernando Alonso
felt lucky to be alive after emerging unscathed from a spectacular
crash during last season's Australian Grand Prix but the twice
Formula One world champion will give it no thought on his return to
Albert Park this year.
Alonso clipped one of the Haas cars at high speed going into turn
three of his 18th lap and the impact sent the Spaniard's McLaren
careening into a barrier before it flipped, rolled and flew
end-over-end into another barrier.
With debris scattered all over the track, Alonso extracted himself
from the wreckage and later said safety improvements had probably
saved his life.
Returning to Albert Park on Thursday, Alonso said the crash was not
on his mind.
"No, no. I try always to forget any of the accidents," he said at
the pre-race media conference.
"It was a really big one last year but it will be perfectly OK and I
really will be looking forward to going back here.
"I like the circuit and how passionate the fans are when we are on
the track. It will be a good experience to go back through those
Alonso has other headaches, chiefly the performance of the
Honda-powered McLaren during winter testing.
Drivers on other teams have raved about new technical changes,
including fatter tyres and aerodynamic upgrades, which have made the
cars faster this season.
But there has been little excitement at McLaren, despite its efforts
to re-boot during the off-season under a new team boss and with
highly-rated Belgian rookie Stoffel Vandoorne taking the seat
vacated by 2009 champion Jenson Button.
The reliability problems remain, and Alonso, who has
had two bleak seasons since returning to McLaren in 2015, was
scathing of Honda's power units in comments published by his home
media during testing.
[to top of second column]
McLaren driver Fernando Alonso of Spain poses during the driver
portrait session at the first race of the year. REUTERS/Brandon
He was more diplomatic when asked about the team's prospects on
Thursday but conceded the Woking-based outfit were still very much
up against it.
"Let's wait and see. We've only done the testing period so the first
race now will make things more clear," he said.
"There is a question mark exactly where we are. We were not able to
push the car to anywhere close to the limit on any lap on testing
due to different problems.
"So let's see if we can have a good first weekend and see a little
more potential in the car and see where we are. There is still a
long way to go for us and a lot of work to do."
(Editing by Sudipto Ganguly)
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