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McLaren chairman says Fernando Alonso is 'devoid of injury'

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MONTMELO, Spain (AP) Fernando Alonso was ''devoid of injury'' following his crash in Formula One preseason testing, McLaren chairman Ron Dennis said Thursday.

Dennis, however, said it was still too early to guarantee the Spaniard will be ready to start the season at the Australian Grand Prix on March 15.

''He is completely lucid. He wants to drive and test, but the doctors said, `If you want him to go to Australia it's best to rest him,''' Dennis said. ''I cannot foresee any reason why (Alonso won't be ready), but I am not the doctor. It's not for me to say yes or no.''

Alonso is missing the final preseason test after he crashed on Sunday at the Barcelona-Catalunya circuit. He spent three days in the hospital before going home to recover.

Dennis said Alonso's hospital stay was due to the extra attention all types of head injuries are receiving in sports.

Dennis said Alonso did briefly loose consciousness and experience ''some loss of memory'' afterward, but that early symptoms that pointed to Alonso having a concussion were not confirmed later by medical exams.

''He had a completely clear CT scan and a completely clear MRI, and through no stage of his hospital stay was there any indication of damage to his brain,'' Dennis said. ''He is not even concussed. The technical definition of a concussion you can see in a scan.''

Dennis said he contacted governing body FIA to initiate the investigation into the accident. He added that data retrieved from the car has ruled out a malfunction, and repeated McLaren's theory that gusting winds caused Alonso to lose control and slam into the wall at Turn 3.

Alonso's accident came during a difficult winter for McLaren, which has switched to Honda engines. It has had problems both with reliability and speed, and recorded the fewest laps of any teams through the first two tests.

Later Thursday, McLaren's car - powered by a new Honda engine - had another mechanical mishap that left Jenson Button stranded.

During the last test, a faulty seal plagued Button. This time the British driver had to call it quits after just seven laps.

''A hydraulic leak means we need to change the engine,'' McLaren said.

Even before his team's latest setback, Dennis said McLaren was ''still at the foot of a steep mountain.''

Button will try again on Friday.

Dennis said if Alonso wasn't ready to race in Melbourne, then reserve driver Kevin Magnussen would take his place.