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Eric Boullier: Fernando Alonso ‘can’t wait’ to try out 2017 McLaren F1 car

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McLaren racing director Eric Boullier says that star driver Fernando Alonso “can’t wait” to get behind the wheel and try out the team’s new-spec 2017 Formula 1 car later this month.

In a bid to make F1 cars multiple seconds per lap faster and look more radical, a number of significant changes have been made to the sport’s technical regulations for 2017.

Alonso, 35, has long-stated that he would consider his future in F1 after trying out the new-spec cars, having grown disillusioned with the current formula that has been in place since 2014.

Speaking to Sky Sports, Boullier stressed that Alonso remained as motivated as ever ahead of the new campaign and is raring to get into action.

“He’s been working very, very hard this winter and he’s really ready and eager,” Boullier said.

“He drove this kind of car, or even faster car, in the past so he knows what to expect.

“He can’t wait to drive the car. He drove it in the simulator but it’s not the same. I’m sure he can’t wait to drive it on the track and see if it’s delivering what we expect.”

Alonso will be joined at McLaren for 2017 by Stoffel Vandoorne, who steps up into a full-time seat after winning the GP2 title in 2015 and finishing fifth in last year’s Super Formula standings.

The high levels of downforce afforded by the new cars are set to place a greater stress on drivers’ bodies, making pre-season preparation more crucial than ever.

Boullier believes that Vandoorne may have a period of adaptation as he gets used to the new cars, but is confident that the Belgian is well prepared for the season ahead.

“Stoffel never drove such a high-downforce car or high-energy car, so he may have a couple of days to suit his body just to make sure he’s fit,” Boullier said.

“But he also worked very hard over the winter, he’s ready. They’re both ready.”

The new F1 season begins on March 26 in Melbourne, Australia.

Alex Zanardi showing signs of interaction three months after crash

Alex Zanardi recovery
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MILAN — Italian racing driver turned Paralympic gold medalist Alex Zanardi has started responding to treatment with signs of interaction, more than three months after he was seriously injured in a handbike crash.

Zanardi has spent most of that time in intensive care after crashing into an oncoming truck during a relay event near the Tuscan town of Pienza on June 19.

“For several days now. Alex Zanardi has undergone cognitive and motor rehabilitation sessions, with the administration of visual and acoustic stimuli, to which the patient responds with momentary and initial signs of interaction,” the San Raffaele hospital in Milan said in a statement Thursday.

The hospital said that is “significant progress” but added that his condition remains serious, and that it would be “absolutely premature” to make a long-term prognosis.

Zanardi, 53, suffered serious facial and cranial trauma in the crash and was put in a medically induced coma. Doctors have warned of possible brain damage.

He was operated on several times to stabilize him and reconstruct his severely damaged face and the Milan hospital added that he recently had undergone another surgery to reconstruct his skull and would have another one in the coming weeks.

Zanardi lost both of his legs in an auto racing crash nearly 20 years ago. He won four gold medals and two silvers at the 2012 and 2016 Paralympics. He also competed in the New York City Marathon and set an Ironman record in his class.