|Photo Credit: Pirelli Photo Service|
Good news has come for the McLaren Honda team and major motor racing fans in time for the second race of the 2015 Formula 1 tour. Having missed the first race of the season, Spain's Fernando Alonso has been given a clean bill of health for the trip to the Sepang International Circuit for March 29th's Malaysian Grand Prix. Alonso will belt himself into the #14 Honda-powered McLaren MP4-30 race car amid several early season concerns.
At the end of the 2014 Formula 1 season, it was fair to say that the McLaren team was looking forward to what 2015 will bring thanks to two major components. Power their 2015 effort would result from a partnership with a resurrected Honda presence in the grand prix tour. Taking an additional year to iron-out their new gasoline/hybrid racing powertrain, Honda was placing complete attention on the single team for new year rebranded as McLaren Honda. The second element was a driver line-up for which 2009 Drivers' champion Jenson Button would be joined by two-time Formula 1 champion Fernando Alonso. A Ferrari driver from 2010 to 2014, Spain's Alonso has been actively hunting for a third championship title and the move to McLaren Honda was seen as a bridge to that goal.
In open testing prior to the beginning of the new Formula 1 season, the latter ingredient to McLaren Honda's idyllic 2015 was placed in jeopardy. During the second day of testing in Barcelona on February 22nd, Fernando Alonso's McLaren collided hard with the wall in turn 3. An area where vehicle speeds were estimated at around 150 miles per hour, the driver suffered a serious concussion and resulted in the loss of consciousness. It was also confirmed that Alonso suffered temporary retrograde amnesia when the Spaniard regained consciousness leaving him unable to recall events past 1995. This 20-year memory gap appears to have been quickly recollected. Alonso has since remembered a testing crash leading to him being sidelined remembering sensing "heavy" steering before the hit.
While the biggest concern regarding the crash was Alonso's health, the McLaren Honda team also appeared to have had their pre-season preparations thrown off kilter. Judging solely from the first race of the 2015 season, the year spent preparing the Honda powerplant for competition may not have amounted to the advantage McLaren was planning to obtain. For the opening race in Australia, test driver Kevin Magnussen returned to competition as a replacement to Alonso but was unable to start the event when smoke erupted from his MP4-30 vehicle. The remaining vehicle driven by Jenson Button was better than Magnussen's but still came up short. Though Button's car finished the race (two laps down to the winning Mercedes AMG of Lewis Hamilton), its 11th place finish made it the only car to complete the Australian Grand Prix without scoring championship points.
McLaren is clearly anticipating the arrival of Fernando Alonso will represent a second chance to start the 2015 Formula 1 in their intended form.