Fernando Alonso was the centre of attention in the Malaysian Grand Prix press conference as he made his first appearance since crashing his McLaren in Barcelona Formula 1 testing.
He duly provided a detailed description of the crash and events surrounding it from his side, reproduced in full below.
Q. Fernando, this has been a happy hunting ground for you throughout your career. You took your first pole here, you've won with three different manufacturers, so a good place to come back from what has been a difficult episode. What can you tell us about what you've been through in the last few weeks?
Fernando Alonso: I'm happy to be here for another F1 season, I start one race later than I should be, but unfortunately, I had the accident in Barcelona and following the recommendation the doctors, I missed the first race.
Malaysia has been always a very nice circuit for me in my F1 career. My first pole position was here in 2003, my first podium and then three wins with three different teams gives me possibility to enjoy this circuit. It is going to be very tough this year to repeat such a result. But happy to be back in the cockpit and ready to enjoy it again.
Q. You've only done around 500km of testing in this car so far. How do you see the journey ahead and the challenge now to hit the targets the team has set?
FA: We need to be with feet on the ground, knowing we are not in a position that we wanted and where we won't be very soon. It will be like a test session in the first races.
I did in this car more or less the same number of laps [in total in testing] that another guy did in one day. I'm not probably confident with the car in this moment. I need to learn many things, not only the driving style but also the approach McLaren has to the weekend. There are many things to learn.
It's a very challenging moment of my career and I'm ready to take it.
Q. Fernando, how long after the accident did you start to get memories of the accident back? What did you learn about it when you went to the factory last week and do you now believe there was no problem with the car?
FA: Everything was more or less as a normal concussion. I had this concussion, went to the hospital in good conditions. There is a time that I don't remember in the hospital from 2 o'clock to 6 o'clock or something like that.
But everything again was normal because of the medication they give you to go to the helicopter and do some tests. It was normal.
I didn't wake up in 1995, I didn't wake up speaking Italian, I didn't wake up all these things probably out there. I remember the accident and I remember everything the following day.
With the team, we have been working closely and with the FIA and they were very helpful. We were in close contact all three parts constantly.
It's not in the data anything clear that we can spot and say it was that, the reason. But definitely we had a steering problem in the middle of Turn 3, it locked to the right, I approached the wall, I braked at last moment, I downshift from fifth to third.
And unfortunately from the data we are still missing some parts. Also data acquisition on that particular area of car is not at the top. There are some new sensors here this race. There are some changes to the steering rack and other parts. That was main thing.
Last week at the factory was working in the simulator and trying to explain all these new sensors and new parts for this race.
Q. Fernando after this episode have you got more respect or more fear to your job?
FA: No, not really. At the end of the day we know motorsport is dangerous. We know that sometimes we have a big accident, spectacular, and the car is completely destroyed and nothing happened. Sometimes you crash in a low speed corner. It depends on the angle. It depends on which part of the body you hit if you have more or less injuries.
It's the same in the normal day life. Sometimes you live a street life and nothing happens and sometimes you walk on the street and you have a big issue, so it's just a very normal thing. I felt ready to go to Australia, but I understand the recommendations from the doctor. It was maybe too early and we wait for one more race.
I'm happy to be here. Happy to help the team. We struggled a bit at the moment. The winter has been quite difficult. The first race was hard for me to watch on TV with the team not performing so well. We are here to help and give McLaren and Honda all the experience we have, Jenson and me, and try to recover from this form as soon as possible.
Q. Fernando you said the steering just locked. For a racing driver the steering is a very delicate thing. If you still don't know what the problem was is that something that worries you despite all the new sensors on the car?
FA: Not really. Together with FIA and the team, we were constantly doing the checks and some investigations and some possibilities. Some areas in the car instrumentation-wise that aren't probably at the level to see this problem. A problem which may occur in this race. 20 years ago, F1 didn't have that technology to spot that problem. Sure we are missing something in the data which we will spot in ten years' time when there is more technology. I have zero doubt [inaudible].
Q. Given that you remember the accident, as far as you're concerned it wasn't driver error or fatigue or, as the team put it, a gust of wind that blew you off course?
FA: No, no, definitely not. When you see the video, even a hurricane would not move the car at that speed. Also if you have any problem, medical issue, normally you will lose power and go straight to the outside, never to the inside. That's one thing.
Honestly, with the accident and the repercussions, a lot of attention on that day, and probably the first answers and first press conference that the team had, my manager whatever, it was just some guess. The wind. Maybe other possibilities.
That creates a little bit of confusion, but you cannot say nothing for three or four days until I remember everything because these three or four days become even worse. They said the theory of the wind, but obviously it was not.
Q. With everything that's happened over the winter, one of the big debates with the fans and people in this room is whether you made the right decision to go to McLaren. What was your reaction to that debate?
FA: I'm one of the happiest people in the world. I have a challenge in front of me, a tough challenge clearly. It's difficult but it's going to taste better when we do it.
The team that I grew up watching on TV, with McLaren-Honda domination and [Ayrton] Senna in the cockpit. I understand now we are too far back, we will be heavily criticised and it would be fair. But there is nothing we can do now but work.
It's a long-term project. All my career, I experienced some beautiful moments here in the last few years. With Ferrari, we didn't win the championship, but it was a fantastic experience. I prefer to risk and to challenge for the victory even if you have to take some risks for the first year.
Q. Can you remember one thing, if you lost consciousness before the first impact or not. And when, why?
FA: I remember everything. It was a sunny morning, all the set-up changes, all the lap times. [Sebastian] Vettel was in front of me, but cut the chicane to let me go.
After the hit, I was kissing the wall for a while, and then I switched off radio first and then I switched off the master switch for the batteries to switch off the ERS system because I saw the marshals were coming so they could touch the car. So I was perfectly conscious at that time.
I lose the conscious in the ambulance I think, at the clinic at the circuit. Doctors said this is normal for the medication for helicopter transportation and checks in the hospital, the MRI and evaluation needs this protocol, needs this medication, so it's normal.
Q. What have you learned about the accident?
FA: What I learned probably is I have so much support from so many people. It's been amazing how many messages from people I've received. So many well wishes from sport, government, everyone was so interested. Also in the F1 paddock as well.
Even from the flight on Tuesday to today, it's been a very nice experience to see wishes of good health for me. You don't realise until you have a problem or you miss one race that so many people are behind you.
Q. The team said there was nothing wrong with the car and yet you're saying the steering locked. How do those statements work together?
FA: It's clear that there was a problem in the car. It's not found on the data at the moment.
One of the things I did in the factory last week, with the simulator, I went through with the engineers the data available. We went through the moments. Some spots here and there but not a clear answer but I understand completely and support the team until they find a clear answer that it was this or that.
They will find something anytime, I don't know. If after one month we haven't found in the data, whatever part we have not found, maybe it's not available in the data. Maybe it will never be.
Q. Do we have now a precise idea of the violence of the impact?
FA: I don't know exactly the details.
Q. There's nothing on the data, you lost consciousness, some say you didn't lose consciousness, the team says there was a gust of wind. It's all very confusing. If there's no data, could the problem happen again?
FA: Some of the confusion comes from the very early quotes and explanations because the attention was very high at the moment, the stress was very high.
I was in intensive care and there was some urgency to say something. That was part of the confusion probably.
On the data, there is some lack of instrumentation on the car to miss the exact problem. There are some actions taken for this race, which probably aren't necessary, but are extra care.
Some parts on the car are unique for me, that I request because of my driving style. Of course there are some actions for this race. There is zero worries on my side - everything is OK.
Q. What happened this morning with the tests?
FA: Today we have been through the normal process as has been the last month. Everything I needed to happen, happened. The concussion, the rehabilitation, the checks, the extra checks, the recommendations of waiting two or three weeks before any dangerous activity, everything went normal.
And again this morning, it was the normal procedure after a head injury. We did an impact test with FIA and some reaction tests and some examinations with the doctors here at the Malaysian Grand Prix. Everything went as smooth as possible. I have a green light, so it was a very positive morning.
Q. It's looking that Ferrari is stronger. Maybe you could've waited a little bit more to leave?
FA: With performance that we have right now, it's easy to criticise our team and my decision, but as I said, I'm first so, so happy. This is the most important, when you're happy with yourself, you're a healthy man inside - that is the first victory. That's what I am now because I'm following my dream now.
Secondly, I could wait and achieve some nice results, probably yes, but after 14 years of F1 and two championships, podiums or fourth place or fifth place isn't any more a nice result.
Q. How were your feelings watching, after 14 years, the race on TV?
FA: I didn't pick the best race to watch. One it was very early in the morning so it didn't help my enthusiasm about the race.
Secondly, the number of cars was not ideal on the grid and also after the first couple of laps. It was a strange feeling, no doubt I missed being there. I missed driving, it was strange.
Q. How can you not be worried? From what you're saying to us the steering was locked, heading towards the wall, fighting the steering. That's a car problem, and you're getting back in the car this weekend and don't know what caused the problem. How can you not be worried?
FA: I fully trust the team. They have been one month looking at every single component on the car, doing so many tests, changing every single part which they had some doubts about.
I think we have the safest car right now with all the studies they did. After one month, I'm probably the most checked driver medically in history, so should be fine.