There was no improvement in McLaren's disastrous build-up the new season yesterday (Thursday), with the team raising the prospect of Fernando Alonso being unfit for the first race and Jenson Button managing just seven laps before another car failure.
Ron Dennis, the McLaren chairman, conceded that even if he felt Alonso would "fly through" any medical tests after his accident in testing on Sunday, the final decision was in the hands of the doctors. Dennis gave a press conference designed to quell some of the speculation about Alonso's accident but questions remain both about the precise nature of the Spaniard's condition and the competitiveness of this year's car.
Dennis said that Alonso had not been concussed, although he did concede that the 33-year-old had been unconscious for a "few seconds" and had suffered some memory loss. The two-times world champion spent three nights in hospital. "He's completely lucid, talking, really wants to drive and go testing," Dennis said.
Asked if Alonso would be able to race in Australia on March 15, Dennis said: "I can't foresee any reason why not, but I'm not the doctor. There will be some tests, there are processes laid down within the FIA, and I can't see any reason why he won't sail through." The team had already been forced to deny speculation that Alonso had been electrocuted in the car or was unconscious immediately before the crash. Dennis said it was a "complete fabrication" to suggest McLaren had been hiding the truth.
On the track, after seven laps way off the pace, Button had to abandon his day in the afternoon when a hydraulic leak prompted the umpteenth engine change of pre-season.
Lewis Hamilton was restricted to 48 laps after a failure with the energy-recovery systems on his Mercedes. Hamilton had set a blistering fast time in the morning, only to be outdone by Williams's Felipe Massa.