Let’s make this short and sweet

Ahem. Aheeeemmmm. Throat clearing noises. Rusty voice.

Hello all.

In the midst of this hopefully flash-in-the-pan little incident I just wanted to make a few points. So here goes:

1) behind this all is Fernando. Certainly at least the equal of the best driver of his generation, a fantastically nice guy, courageous and generous – a real star. Just get better fast Fernando!

2) let’s also remember that we have no right to any medical information. It’s just not our business. But Fernando is a public figure, and so his fans DO have a right to be treated with some degree of respect.

3) The confusion, improvisation, inconsistency, and outright silliness of the various press contacts most certainly do not represent malign intent. Between privacy concerns, insurance issues, sponsor considerations, getting comms right in these circumstances is not easy. As, ummm, we’ve just seen.

51 thoughts on “Let’s make this short and sweet

  1. I’m still following the Alonso concussion story and I’ve just heard David Coulthard on BBC say that cause of crash is likely to remain a mystery but that paddock rumours are that he may not even be back for second race. I’m convinced this was just a pretty bad concussion with a few days post traumatic amnesia (PTA) and retrograde amnesia, which I didn’t know anything about before but now know is worse than PTA and less common. Good article quoting Gary today on concussion recovery.

  2. Pingback: McLaren’s already difficult offseason unaided by its handling of Alonso story | MotorSportsTalk

  3. The Wikipedia entry on “Second Impact Syndrome” is particularly clear and well presented.
    Clearly Fernando suffered symptoms after his crash (one assumes he suffered “First Imoact Syndrome”!) whatever baloney McLaren tried to make us believe, and now his doctors quite reasonably want to minimize the risk of “second impact syndrome” which can be disastrous etc!
    Formula 1 seems to collectively suffer from “up its own a*se syndrome” and “taking us for fools syndrome” which is another risky business they could do well to avoid as it usually results in “turnthetellyoff’itis” for which there is no known cure.


  4. McLaren driver Fernando Alonso will miss the season-opening Australian Grand Prix on 15 March on medical advice.

    Doctors say Alonso is not injured following his crash in testing on 22 February, but advised him not to race in Melbourne because of the risk of suffering a second concussion.

    Suffering another concussion injury while a patient is still suffering from the first can have serious consequences, which can extend to prolonged coma or even death

    • Ps I assume Alonso has been tested and found to be suffering from some reaction (e.g. recent dizzy spells following exertion or waking up in the morning). Physiologically I assume there is likely some scarring following his incident. This is something that has been discussed in relation to Rugby Union which has been more open in discussing the issues.

  5. I received this today . . .U.K engineer. . .motorsports guy. . .
    “There are all kinds of conspiracy/cover up theories on the blogs, ranging from electrocution by the KERS to passing out before the accident. McLaren has withheld telemetry data and has kept footage from the 3 cameras covering the accident. There are rumors that McLaren is covering up a structural/design defect. The FIA is now investigating to see if there’s a safety issue. The impact speed wasn’t that high – reported as 105KPH ( some say it was MPH), so 3 days in the hospital and possibly missing the first race doesn’t sound consistent with this. In any event, it’s really a shame if he misses the opener.”

    • Very long detailed item on concussion on BBC website. Some risks are worth taking and others not. I know Prof Sid Watkins stopped several drivers racing after concussion until they were fully recovered. In the current climate I would say better safe than sorry, even though he looks fine in the video he has posted.
      Good quotes from Professor Steve Olvey
      “It’s different for each individual but the bottom line is too many concussions too close together are thought to cause long-term effects that could have an effect on a person later in life, so it is not worth the risk.”
      Good news for Schumacher’s son today though as he has been signed up for Formula 4.

  6. If anyone hasn’t seen Gary’s video on concussion it’s well worth a watch. Concern about repeated concussions is beginning to be taken more seriously here in the UK. Most research comes from sports and I was reading a bit about this last night. They call it SLAM (Sports as a Laboratory Assessment Model) – it’s a good way of studying people who are very motivated to get back to play and so eliminates any issues to do with malingering or lawsuits. In most concussions in sports people are not unconscious even for a few seconds (less than 10% in most US studies) and so Alonso must have taken a pretty big hit and it’s hardly surprising that he had some amnesia. Gary knows his stuff on this .

  7. “And about whatever I may see or hear in treatment, or even without treatment, in the life of human beings — things that should not ever be blurted out outside –I will remain silent, holding such things to be unutterable.”

    Let us all try to never forget, however highly our emotions may run, after all, what is life with passion – not only is it none of our business, but these things are a private and confidential matter. Only on such a solid foundation of trust is there full disclosure between those who matter.

    • re: Phil’s upset infant:

      It’s actually Fernando writing incognito – that’s what happens after every “non-injury-everything’s-normal-that-requires-3-days-in-hospital” event produces…..

      • dagnabbit – it would be really nice if there was a “preview” or “edit” feature; now I appear almost like Phil.

  8. Great post and good to have you back Gary.

    I was beginning to worry that the FIA bullyboys had succeeded in their goal of silencing you. Very glad to see that’s not the case.

  9. Either I’m better at my job than I realise or people really are just stupid, and needless to say the Law should’ve intervened in these issues a long time ago to ensure the FIA had a standard press release and a formal commitment from all drivers families to ensure the protection of fans and companies from burdening the emotional attachment these sports require to succeed, MS a perfect example, nice FIA organisational management, not!

    Now we need doctorate studies in communications because being brought up to actually speak without offending people is about as rare as not being jealous of the Royal Family or my mother speaking the truth, neither of which ever happen.

    Germans, without intending to offend, you paid for the Greek economy ask the Plato Academy.

    • Philippa is this earlier post from you? If you please tell me what it means. Is it code?
      Munchhausen’s … I want to be so moral, I feel so much for the loss and waste of life, I stand above the world with pure love streaming from my heart at the waste, I just have to let everyone know how stupid and pointless it all is, they should be like me sitting on the couch, legs straight with hands clasped in lap baby calmly sitting in the floor instead of chewing on toy truck tire – probably hungry, starved by it’s mother, ohhh ahhhh, I am so pure and innocent as a child, waaaa!!!! ;-…. (cries like a baby) … the loss, the pain, the poor family… ahhhh!!!!

    • Talking about MS….I read they just sold the ski hideaway in Norway. The way they are spending it that money will not last forever. First the jet, now the house in Norway….liquidation time. Is it better to have had it and lost it or to never have had it.

    • Phillipa: Are you suggesting the FIA should be held legally responsible for turning ordinary people into emotionally attached fans of the sport & then leaving said individuals in an emotional limbo with a news vacuum when driver heroes are involved in serious accidents?

  10. I have a question, probably a very stupid one In the 2015 season changes we can read this :
    “Cockpit safety – the Zylon anti-intrusion panels on both sides of the survival cell have been extended upwards to the rim of the cockpit and alongside the driver’s head.”
    I know this has been made for the safety, but in case of a contact between the helmet and these panels during a crash, isn’t the risk of an impact directly on the brain more important than previously ?

    • I think that the cockpit surround does a good enough job slowing the head that by the time it’s fully crushed and the head approaches the actual cockpit rim, it’s lost so much energy that the Zylon panels pose no threat at all.

  11. Gary,
    On a personal note, it’s good to hear from you again. (It’s been a long winter what with all the beheadings and nonstop discussions of Oscar nominees.) I was just thinking about the essence of your function in my intellectual life and came to the conclusion that you satisfy the WTF Factor. You know what I mean. When you read something that makes your head explode and others around you don’t share your sense of WTF??!! You do! It’s important to me because otherwise fear of insanity creeps in. When I read: Alonso crashes hard [wtf?]. Alonso OK but in hospital for 3 days [wtf?]. Alonso OK and out of hospital and waves to crowd and goes home to rest leaving Magnussen to complete winter testing [wtf?]. The crash no fault of car or driver, just the wind. [wtf?]

  12. So he was unconscious in the car after the impact. (According to Uncle Ron) and he must have had a kind of sideways whiplash. Is a sideways whiplash more dangerous or less than a front/rear one doc?

    It must happen a lot in road crashes where a car gets “T boned” I know my car has air bags in the side of the seat back. I remember from a work project, that the Rover 75 has airbags all over the inside and must become a bouncy castle in the event of an impact. No doubt more recent models have even more.
    Would the HANS device give any protection/restraint in the side impact? If nowadays drivers cannot be trusted to crash straight on, should the HANS have extra side straps?

    If we went for side airbags (or front/rear) would we not end up with the same problem of deceleration force inside the body, assuming the outside could be perfectly cocooned instantly? The real problem being a lack of space in which to continue movement along the axis of impact before it runs out.
    Whilst the survival cell primarily prevents incursion it does little to reduce deceleration. On road cars bodywork and floorpan are designed to collapse progressively, reducing the final impact. On an F1 car this is not the case, it suffers from a lack of distance between the exterior wall of the sidepod and the driver, nor it is designed as a progressive collapse cell.

    In F1, in view of the above, restriction, the impact absorption is mostly provided by the target ie the tyres acting as a spring, the conveyor belt preventing incursion, perhaps a moveable water filled barrier may be better. However concrete walls have no place in any safe racing environment unless adequately buffered.

    • The Confor foam head rest inserts were studied specifically to decelerate the head in a controlled manner for side and rear impacts. As I’d mentioned, the properties of the foam (very high resistance if hit with high energy, then tapering rapidly), the thickness of the inserts, as well as their height (at least as high as the center of gravity of the head-helmet complex) and offset from the helmet (just changed again as I remember for the 2011 or 2012 seasons, based on better data) are an incredibly effective system. FHR (frontal head restraint) systems, of which HANS is but the best known example, are designed to cover frontal and quartering frontal impacts.

      • Yes but the side impact inserts are only 95mm thick. Even a 100 kph impact works out at 3G approx if decelerated over 1 second, in this case we are probably taking of a tenth or less of a second, the average deceleration must be over 30 G. (Much higher, if as you say the foam is non linear in its resistance) Unfortunately the Tech Regs Appendix giving the medical warning light parameters is not included in the version accessible to the general public. But I would have thought 30G was nasty! The more you control the head movement the more G is imposed initially. One is still confined by the distance available.
        The only way to extend the time for deceleration is by allowing the the surround to deform outwards in a controlled manner. But maybe we are then allowing too much rotational movement of the head on an axis parallel to that of the car centreline though of course it (the axis of rotation) would be moving, toward the impact zone and creating sideways whiplash.

        I have always had the same problem with NCAP and small cars getting top ratings. It is much safer to drive big cars with big crumple zones.

  13. This is certainly a bizarre incident that leads one to wonder if there is more to it than meets the eye. There is obviously more caution towards potential head injuries today than in the past , but, from the photos I’ve seen, he didn’t even knock a corner off, but rather bumped along the wall. To be unconscious, requiring medevac to hospital and then a three night stay, with loss of memory after such a seemingly minor event, while the team states that CT and MRI scans show he’s just peachy, all seems a bit incongruous to me. I worry that there is something more to the story than a bit of wind.

  14. In other sports a more open discussion is being had e.g. Rugby Union:

    “England full-back Mike Brown has been ruled out of Sunday’s (1st March) Six Nations match in Ireland after suffering a setback in his recovery from concussion. … who was injured in a clash of heads during the 47-7 win over Italy on 14 February. Brown woke up on Wednesday with a headache after training on Tuesday (24 February). “This morning Mike woke up not feeling 100%,” assistant coach Andy Farrell said. The right and proper thing to do was to make the call. His health is the main priority here … “The symptoms aren’t too severe whatsoever, just a little headache. He’s fine in himself and is chirpy enough, but it just isn’t worth the risk because his health comes first.” …

  15. Gary,
    I wondered what you’d be thinking about the Alonso crash. Three days in the hospital and no more test days sounds like something wasn’t so great in his noggin.
    What really got me was the cause of the crash: the wind. I liked that. Apparently, the wind only affects McLarens driven by Alonso. Well, if Ron Dennis says so, we know we can believe him.

    • Doc, it would seem that we are now being told by Ron Dennis that Alonso was “briefly unconscious”, and yet was not concussed. Is it possible to have impact induced loss of consciously without being concussed? If not it seems there is a piece of the puzzle missing.

  16. Erm, have you by any chance been getting ‘a visit’ again, doc? Forgive me for saying this, but this sounds a wee bit like externally motivated back-paddeling. Your insight into the situation has been much appreciated and helpful in understanding that somewhat murky situation and I’ve seen or heard nothing lately that would warranrt to go into ‘nothing to see here, move on’ mode.

    • I think the rest of figuring this out needs to come from some combination of McLaren waking up from their bizarre strategy and real journalists pushing for the story. Happily, we’ve all got lives to lead . . . don’t we?

  17. MS all over. I, for one don’t really care. Cloak and dagger is not for me. I believe in an open book.
    But thank you, Gary for clearing up a few things.

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