MELBOURNE, March 18 -Two-times world champion Fernando Alonso walked away unharmed from a horrifying crash that wrecked his McLaren car in an incident-packed Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne on Sunday.
The 34-year-old Spaniard, competing in his 253rd F1 race, was shaken but remarkably uninjured when his car rolled and slammed into a barrier after clipping the Haas car of Mexican Esteban Gutierrez on lap 17 of the 57-lap season-opener.
Alonso’s McLaren initially veered into the wall on turn three before pitching into a series of violent rolls. It then flew through the gravel trap and slammed into another barrier, disintegrating upon impact.
The Spaniard, who won the world title with Renault in 2005-06, quickly clambered out of the barely recognisable wreckage and walked away unaided.
“I feel good. It was a combination of factors and it ended up in a crash,” Alonso said.
“But we are lucky we are both okay. For the safety of those cars is why I am alive — and the safety wall.
“I think it was a racing thing and sometimes we forget we are going 300 kilometres (186 miles) an hour.”
Alonso said he emerged from the spectacular shunt “thankful to be alive”.
“It’s all fine, apparently,” he said. “There is some pain in the knees because you are bouncing a lot in the cockpit.
“But apart from that everything should be okay. You are thankful that you are alive and nothing happened, no injuries, nothing serious.
“But the second thought immediately is the frustration of not finishing the race.”
The race was stopped and cars returned to the pit lane by the safety car as a considerable amount of debris was cleared from the track.
“You are just flying and then you see the sky, the ground, the sky, the ground, and you don’t know,” Alonso said.
“When I stopped I saw a little space to get out of the car and I went out quickly, just to make sure that people at home were not too worried about me.”
Gutierrez rushed to check on Alonso after his Haas car came to rest in the same gravel trap.
“Thankfully we are all right. It was a very, very scary moment,” Gutierrez said.
“The first thing I saw in the mirror, I was really worried. I jumped out as quick as I could and ran to him. It was a really big relief he was OK.
“We didn’t speak much. It was a real moment of shock for both of us. I just went to him to see if everything was fine with him.”
Gutierrez said he was aware that Alonso’s car was behind him on the track.
“I braked into Turn 3 and everything came by surprise at the rear. I need to see the video to understand what happened.”
McLaren-Honda boss Ron Dennis said: “You never pre-judge anything after an accident like that, the cars can be incredibly safe. It’s a testimony to the safety of F1.”
American Gene Haas, owner of the Haas team in their first year in F1, said: “Our car came out the better, Alonso’s car was destroyed. He was up and walking and that was important.
“In NASCAR (in the USA) we have incidents like this almost every race and we’re pretty used to it.”