Fernando Alonso was said to be “the luckiest man alive” after walking away from a 200mph crash during the Australian Grand Prix at Melbourne Park on Sunday.
Alonso collided with Haas driver Esteban Gutirrez while trying to overtake during lap 18 of the 2016 Formula One season opener, sending him into the crash barrier at breakneck speeds.
The car then skids along sideways and flips upon contact with the gravel, causing Alonso to rotate one and a half times before eventually coming to a halt in a shower of debris a significant distance from the track.
Somehow the 34-year-old Australian managed to limp away from the crash. He said he was “lucky to be alive” and later posted on Instagram: “Time to take the plane and rest couple of days for a full recovery.”
The Instagram post picture showed Alonso reading Australia’s The Herald Sun newspaper, which ran with the front page headline: “Luckiest man alive.”
“I am lucky to be here and thankful to be here. It was a scary moment and a scary crash. When I stopped I saw a little space to get out of the car and I went out quickly just to make sure that my mum, who was watching the race on TV at home, could see that I was okay,” Alonso said.
He added: “You are not exactly aware where you are. You are just flying and then you see the sky, the ground, the sky, the ground and you don’t know.
“Then I didn’t know where I was because I was so far from the track. Everything happened slower than on the outside. You want to stop and it doesn’t stop, it keeps going and going and going. It was quite scary.”
Gutierrez, who also ended up in the gravel, was seen shaking Alonso’s hand before both were taken away for medical attention.
Experts believe the crash exerted up to 46g at the point of impact and subjected Alonso to a further 9 to 12g when the car flipped. Yet somehow he walked away with bruised knees.
Viewers were left gobsmacked as the crash-damaged car, which barely resembled a Formula One car, was taken away. The Australian Grand Prix was red-flagged for 20 minutes after.
Hamilton started in pole position but fell back through the pack after a bad start. He then worked his way back to second, finishing eight seconds behind Nico Rosberg.
Sebastian Vettel came in fourth for Ferrari, while Daniel Ricciardo brought fifth place to the Red Bull team, 24 seconds ahead of Williams fifth-place Felipe Massa in the Williams car.
Alonso crashed his McLaren-Honda during pre-season testing in 2015. Such was the level of concussion after the incident, he was said to have thought it was 1995.