Ron Dennis says he doesn’t believe McLaren acted unreasonably in its request to the FIA to reconsider its position of preventing Fernando Alonso from competing in the Bahrain Grand Prix, even if it would rob Stoffel Vandoorne the chance to race midway through his F1 debut weekend.
Alonso failed his FIA medical ahead of the Bahrain event after suffering a cracked rib and a collapsed lung in his high-speed Melbourne crash, though he had been provisionally cleared by specialists prior to the event.
Though it has opened the door for highly rated reserve driver Vandoorne to make his F1 debut, McLaren pursued what it was felt was a flawed decision not to allow Alonso to race, particularly as the ‘aggrieved’ Spaniard felt fit enough and was blocked from influencing the decision.
“When the team arrived here they brought two scans that were taken on Monday. The two sets of doctors in Spain had cleared Fernando to drive and fly, so we were very surprised to get a different interpretation here. As we got through yesterday, Fernando was feeling aggrieved that he felt so good and he felt he wanted to drive. We have an obligation.
“We approached the FIA and said if we had a new scan taken this morning and if this new scan supported the position of the doctors five days later, would they then let him drive? And they said no, it doesn’t matter was the scan showed he wouldn’t be permitted to drive. Being data driven, it was a bit frustrating that you are not given the opportunity to evaluate the drivers’ condition.”
Indeed, Dennis says he felt the FIA was being ‘subjective’ in its decision to show caution in Alonso’s case, insisting the responsibility should have been deferred to the team in that instance.
“There are lots of things where you seek advice and have freedom of choice. Would Fernando have been a danger to other drivers? Then after that the question is one of assessment and if you have a cracked rib and you want to drive, it is your business. It is not a big deal. Then you push on that and ask ‘what about this and that’, but then it becomes subjective… and that is the bit I don’t like. Even if there was a scan taken and there was a reason, then I can live with that.”
Though the push to clear Alonso to drive was seen as undermining to Vandoorne ahead of his first F1 race, Dennis played this down and maintained McLaren had a duty to clarify the position.
“I thought we did an appropriate thing. This conversation is detracting from the progress of the team, which has been significant, and the fantastic first GP position for Stoffel it is a small issue, it wasn’t a big issue but it is an issue that as a professional team we wanted to take a professional approach to. I don’t think our position was unprofessional and not to the detriment of Stoffel.”