GRANOLLERS, Spain (AP) — Back at the track where he was concussed in the preseason, Fernando Alonso has promised to thank the medical personnel who treated him by taking them out to dinner after the Spanish Grand Prix on Sunday.
The 33-year-old Spaniard crashed at the Circuit de Catalunya in February during a second test session. The McLaren driver missed the third and final test session and the season-opening race in Australia the following month as his recovery took longer than anticipated.
"The impact was a little bit unlucky and it put me out of the car one month," Alonso said on Thursday at a news conference. "The week that I was in the hospital I had one of the best staff I could imagine. They were so kind to me, and I plan to have dinner with them. Sunday night, after all the stress and the race."
The two-time Formula One champion has not had much to celebrate, otherwise, considering he has not won a race since winning here two years ago.
Since that victory — his 32nd— he has gone 37 races without a win.
Last year was particularly difficult as Ferrari was hit by internal feuds and changes of management, leading to Alonso's departure to McLaren, and Sebastian Vettel quitting Red Bull to replace him.
The move has gone far better for Vettel, who has one race win and three podiums and sits third in the standings. Alonso's highest finish so far was 11th at the Bahrain GP three weeks ago, and his last podium was a third-place finish at the Hungarian GP in July.
The barren run looks set to continue as McLaren continues to struggle with its Honda engines since switching from Mercedes engines in the offseason.
"It's a little bit disappointing to be outside of Q1 (top 10 in qualifying). Expectations are always high with a McLaren-Honda partnership," Alonso said. "People are expecting better than what we are doing now. I'm enjoying the challenge a lot, climbing the mountain."
Although it may be some time before Alonso gets back into the spotlight, he was wearing sunglasses during the news conference.
"I have a stye, a little inflammation of my eye," Alonso said. "They recommend not to be too much (in) the artificial light. I am trying to protect the eye a little bit today and tomorrow to be ready for Saturday and Sunday."