‘Be good to your mother’ – words to live by and words that were at the forefront of Fernando Alonso’s mind as he hung upside down in the shattered wreck of his McLaren-Honda.
Fans at the Albert Park circuit of the Australian Formula One Grand Prix, and in front of televisions across the globe, looked on aghast as Alonso’s barely recognisable machine lay forlornly against a wall in a gravel trap.
The Spaniard’s high-speed bid to pass Haas F1 Team’s Esteban Gutierrez had come unstuck in such jaw-dropping fashion that surely there would be terrible consequences.
“It was quite scary,” Alonso, apparently a master of understatement, said.
“But at the last moment, the car stopped and I had a little space to go out and I said ‘I will go out quickly because my mother will be watching at home’.”
The 34-year-old’s car flipped repeatedly and crumbled to pieces before hitting a barrier at turn three after he clipped the rear of Gutierrez’s car at full speed while trying to pass on the outside on lap 17 of 57.
The two-time world champion admitted it seemed as if time stood still inside his cockpit as the horrendous collision unfolded.
“Everything happens slower than from the outside,” he said.
“Unfortunately, I was flying, so you see the sky, then the ground, then the sky, then the ground … you want to stop, but it doesn’t stop. It keeps going and going and going.”
The images of Alonso clawing his way out of the wreck then slumping over with his hands on his knees in relief were powerful.
He admitted he was lucky to be alive and unhurt, giving credit to the work put into safety by the sport’s governing body over the past 15 years for his survival.
Gutierrez’s spinning car came to rest safely in the gravel trap just metres from Alonso’s smouldering wreck.
His immediate thoughts were for his colleague, who he ran to and embraced.
“The most important thing is that we are both fine – it was a very scary moment and not very pleasant to see how his car ended up,” Gutierrez said.
“When I saw his car, I came out as quick as possible and ran to him … obviously it was a big relief to see that he was fine.
“To be honest, I think we were both a bit shocked from the crash. We came together and spoke a little bit, but we’re all good most importantly.”
Both drivers agreed no one was at fault for what they deemed a racing incident.