Belfast Telegraph

Alonso 'lucky to be alive'

By David Tremayne

Fernando Alonso said he felt "lucky to be alive" after walking away from a spectacular crash that left his obliterated McLaren scattered across the Albert Park circuit and brought a temporary halt to the first Formula One race of the season, the Australian Grand Prix.

Alonso's right wheel clipped Esteban Gutierrez's Haas at high speed going into turn three of the 18th lap and the impact sent the Spaniard's McLaren careening into a barrier, smashing it to pieces, before it flipped, rolled and flew end over end into another barrier.

The two-time world champion emerged from the wreckage and walked gingerly over to the Mexican Gutierrez, and the pair embraced.

"I'm okay, I'm trying to put everything in place again," the 34-year-old said in the paddock after Nico Rosberg had won the race.

"It was a scary crash. Lucky to be here and happy to be here, and thankful to be here - thanks to the safety crew, probably, I'm alive.

"We lost the power unit and the car because there was a lot of damage, but I'm super happy to be talking."

Race control said that Alonso's contact with Gutierrez would be investigated but the Spaniard said neither driver was to blame

"It's tough, you can only see the rear wing, you don't have the full view of the track," Alonso (pictured right, after the crash) said.

"And same for him, he can't see what the other guy is doing. So we are both happy."

He added: "It was a scary moment and a scary crash.

"When I stopped I saw a little space to get out of the car and I went out quickly just to make sure that my mum, who was watching the race on TV at home, could see that I was okay."

Gutierrez, who ended up backwards in the gravel, went over to Alonso to shake his hand before both drivers were whisked off to the medical centre.

In testament to the sport's remarkable safety standards both drivers were promptly given the all-clear.

"You are not exactly aware where you are," Alonso (34) said reflecting on the incident.

"You are just flying and then you see the sky, the ground, the sky, the ground and you don't know.

"Then I didn't know where I was because I was so far from the track.

"Everything happened slower than on the outside.

"You want to stop and it doesn't stop, it keeps going and going and going. It was quite scary."

Gutierrez said: "Thankfully, we are all right.

"It was a very, very scary moment. I jumped out as quick as I could and ran to him.

"It was a really big relief he was okay.

"It was a real moment of shock for both of us. I just went to him to see if everything was fine with him."

The race was already building up to be a memorable one even before Alonso's harrowing high-speed smash on lap 18.

Slow getaways by pole-sitter Hamilton and his team-mate Rosberg ensured they were gobbled up by the Ferrari pair of Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen on the opening lap.

Indeed so poor was Hamilton's start, which almost saw him and Rosberg run into one another, he dropped to sixth.

But a daring one-stop strategy by Mercedes enabled both Rosberg and Hamilton to recover with the former claiming his fourth victory in a row.

Vettel's chances of winning were hampered by a slow second pit-stop and a late trip across the grass in his pursuit of Hamilton, while Raikkonen retired with an engine problem.

"We have 20 races from here, and there is a long way to go," said Hamilton, who was seventh when the race restarted after Alonso's crash.

"I just look at 2014 when I retired. I was 25 points down from this race so this result is a blessing for me. Seven points behind? I am pretty happy with that. Today I had a race. I was behind people, and I had to race. That is what I live for."

Home favourite Daniel Ricciardo finished fourth for Red Bull with Felipe Massa next up for Williams. Meanwhile, Formula One's disastrous new qualifying format lasted just one race after it was ditched by red-faced team bosses.

FIA Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix Leading Final Positions after Race (57 Laps): 1 Nico Rosberg (Ger) Mercedes GP 1hr 48mins 15.565secs, 2 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes GP 1:48:23.625, 3 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari 1:48:25.208, 4 Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Red Bull 1:48:39.895, 5 Felipe Massa (Bra) Williams 1:49:14.544, 6 Romain Grosjean (Fra) Haas F1 1:49:27.646, 7 Nico Hulkenberg(Ger) Force India 1:49:29.764, 8 Valtteri Bottas (Fin) Williams 1:49:30.718, 9 Carlos Sainz(Spa) Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:49:31.245, 10 Max Verstappen(Ned) Scuderia Toro Rosso 1:49:32.398.

World Championship Standings after Australian Grand Prix, Drivers: 1 Nico Rosberg (Ger) Mercedes GP 25pts, 2 Lewis Hamilton (Gbr) Mercedes GP 18, 3 Sebastian Vettel (Ger) Ferrari 15, 4 Daniel Ricciardo (Aus) Red Bull 12, 5 Felipe Massa (Bra) Williams 10.

Manufacturers: 1 Mercedes GP 43pts, 2 Ferrari 15, 3 Williams 14, 4 Red Bull 12, 5 Haas F1 8, 6 Force India 6, 7 Scuderia Toro Rosso 3, 8 Renault 0, 9 McLaren 0, 10 Sauber-Ferrari 0, 11 Manor Racing 0.

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