Breaking: Fernando Alonso Will Retire From Formula 1 at the End of 2018
Alonso did not announce his plans beyond the November F1 season finale.
It's official: Fernando Alonso will retire from Formula 1 racing after 17 years at the pinnacle of motorsport. The famous driver from Asturias, Spain, also won the 24 Hours of Le Mans earlier this year.
The official announcement was made by McLaren on Tuesday morning, in which it said that the Spanish driver will not chase a third world title at the wheel of the current McLaren Renault F1 racer. The 37-year-old driver has amassed two world championships, 32 wins, 22 pole positions and 97 podiums since starting his Formula 1 career with the now-defunct Minardi team in 2003. In 2005, Alonso became the youngest world champion at the age of 24, something he doubled up on a year later when he became the youngest two-time world champion in 2006 at the age of 25.
“I made this decision some months ago and it was a firm one," said Alonso. "Nevertheless, I would like to sincerely thank Chase Carey and Liberty Media for the efforts made to change my mind and everyone who has contacted me during this time."
"After 17 wonderful years in this amazing sport, it’s time for me to make a change and move on. I have enjoyed every single minute of those incredible seasons and I cannot thank enough the people who have contributed to make them all so special."
Despite the rumors that McLaren will join IndyCar in 2019, the official statement did not offer any insight into what Alonso will be up to once the 2018 F1 season comes to a close. Alonso's teasing of big news to come yesterday through social media triggered many responses, but perhaps the most important one came from the official Twitter account of the Verizon IndyCar series, which responded with "We still on for lunch tomorrow?" while the Indianapolis Motor Speedway tweeted Alonso: "DM us if you wanna chat."
“I want to thank everyone at McLaren," added Alonso. "My heart is with the team forever. I know they will come back stronger and better in the future and it could be the right moment for me to be back in the series; that would make me really happy. I have built so many great relationships with many fantastic people at McLaren, and they have given me the opportunity to broaden my horizons and race in other categories. I feel I am a more complete driver now than ever."
“Finally, I would also like to thank my former teams, teammates, competitors, colleagues, partners, journalists and everyone I have worked with in my F1 career. And, especially, my fans all over the world. I am quite sure our paths will cross again in the future,” he said.
“There are still several grand prix to go this season, and I will take part in them with more commitment and passion than ever," Alonso added. “Let’s see what the future brings; new exciting challenges are around the corner. I’m having one of the happiest times ever in my life but I need to go on exploring new adventures."
Whether Alonso jumps ship to IndyCar or follows his already established path to the FIA's World Endurance Championship, only time will tell, but it's safe to say that a champion of his stature most likely won't retire to sit on the couch and watch movies. He will most likely fulfill roles similar to those of Mike Hakkinen and Niki Lauda with Mercedes-Benz, or the likes of Michael Schumacher prior to joining Mercedes-AMG.
"Fernando is not only an outstanding ambassador for McLaren but also for Formula 1," said McLaren boss Zak Brown. "His 17 years in the sport, as arguably the pre-eminent driver of his generation and undoubtedly an F1 great, have added another layer to Formula 1’s rich history.
“There is a time for everyone to make a change and Fernando has decided the end of this season to be his. We respect his decision, even if we believe he is in the finest form of his career. Our open dialogue with Fernando has meant we could plan for this eventuality," he said.
“While evaluating his future during the past months, Fernando’s competitiveness has been undimmed. He has continued to perform at the highest level throughout, as we know he will do in the remaining nine races of this year’s championship," added Brown.
“I know that the entire team joins me in paying tribute to Fernando’s enormous contribution to McLaren; he is a legend both for the championship and for the team. Fernando is an important part of our story and will join an illustrious line of McLaren drivers. On behalf of Shaikh Mohammed, Mansour and our entire board, we wish Fernando every success in the future,” he said.
Alonso's departure also means that another F1 seat has become available, and even though McLaren is currently struggling to become a leading team, surely several drivers will be knocking on the door at the McLaren Technology Center.