Melbourne, March 21 (IANS) Two-time Formula One world champion Fernando Alonso has admitted he is lucky to be alive after a high-speed crash that forced race officials to momentarily stop the Australian Grand Prix on Sunday.
Alonso’s brush with death came on the 17th lap of the opening GP of the year, when the Spaniard smashed into the back-left wheel of Haas driver Esteban Gutierrez, reports Xinhua.
The collision at Turn 3 — the same corner where a marshal was killed by a stray wheel in the 2001 GP — spun the Spaniard into a nearby wall, before sending his McLaren-Honda into an end-over-end somersault that left his car totally destroyed.
As the dust settled, Alonso miraculously rose to his feet, albeit very gingerly, assessing the damage before hugging Gutierrez, whose car spun 540 degrees and ended up in the gravel.
“I saw the sky, the ground, the sky, the ground. It keeps going and going and going,” the 30-year-old Alonso, who has never won at Albert Park, told reporters late on Sunday night.
“It was quite scary but at the last moment the car stopped. I wanted to get out quickly, because my mum is watching at home.”
The impact with the barrier left debris all over the road, forcing stewards to suspend the race with a red-flag — the first since 2014.
Both Alonso and Gutierrez were taken to a on-course medical centre for a check-up, and were later cleared.
“The most important thing is that we are both fine — it was a very scary moment and not very pleasant to see how his car ended up,” Gutierrez said.
“When I saw his car I came out as quick as possible and ran to him … obviously it was a big relief to see that he was fine.
“To be honest I think we were both a bit shocked from the crash. We came together and spoke a little bit but we’re all good most importantly.”
The incident was reminiscent of when Britain’s Martin Brundle famously climbed up the back of David Coulthard during the inaugural Australian GP at Albert Park in 1996, flipping his yellow Jordan over and into the fence.
Like Alonso, Brundle also walked away. Not only that, he returned to the pits, jumped in the team’s spare car, and re-entered the race.
On Sunday, Nico Rosberg edged out teammate Lewis Hamilton to win the F1 opener, as Mercedes recorded its fourth-straight one-two finish.