Fernando Alonso won’t be racing at the Albert Park this weekend. The Spaniard is instead recovering from a pre-season crash and concussion at his home in Oviedo. But his absence won’t be inconspicuous. The mystery over Alonso’s crash has given rise to speculations that the teams had threatened to boycott the season-opening race. A German daily reported that the 33-year-old might have suffered an electric shock inside the car, which rendered him unconscious even before his McLaren hit the wall. Former McLaren driver David Coulthard went on to say ‘something does not add up’ about the crash.
A few thousand miles away from Melbourne, which will host the season’s opening race come Sunday, the International Automobile Federation (FIA) president Jean Todt scoffs at those suggestions. “Completely untrue,” he says. “All those are completely untrue allegations. So far, clear explanation hasn’t appeared because the experts are trying to understand what has happened. We need to be patient to understand what exactly happened.”
The concern over Alonso’s accident follows the serious crash at last year’s Japanese Grand Prix when Marussia driver Jules Bianchi’s car hit a crane that was recovering another smashed car. Todt insists the safety measures in F1 are improving. “But we can always do better,” adds Todt, who was in Mumbai to launch the Road Safety Week with the Western India Automobile Association.
Drivers’ safety isn’t the only issue on agenda for the motorsports boss. F1 has been rocked over the last 12 months by its latest monetary crisis, which resulted in Marussia going out of business and Caterham falling into administration.
Todt agrees there is a need to reduce costs ‘significantly’ but concedes that they are yet to come up with a substantial way to ensure the sport becomes cost effective for all teams. “There are a lot of ways to limit costs. I don’t think it’s necessary to have 500-1000 people to run a F1 team. I also think you can highlight some technologies which could be cheaper. We have a working group to come up with ideas. There is some progress but we do not have substantial results,” he says.
Last season, Sauber, Force India and Lotus demanded a more equitable distribution of F1’s revenues of $900 million to help them survive. There were also talks of introducing budget caps but they never materialised. “I don’t care how it’s done as long as costs are reduced. Each team has a different thinking so at the end of the day, you cannot please everybody,” he admits.