Fernando Alonso announced earlier today that he will be retiring from Formula One after the end of the current season. It is currently the mid-season break in the sport but the McLaren driver said he’d been deciding over the matter for a few months now.
In a video released on his Twitter profile (seen below), Alonso poetically shows a brief history of his time in Formula One and how he saw his part in it.
In a later statement Fernando added:
“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.
“There are still several grands prix to go this season, and I will take part in them with more commitment and passion than ever.
“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.
“I want to thank everyone at McLaren. 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.
“I made this decision some months ago and it was a firm one. 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.
“Finally, I would also like to thank my former teams, team-mates, 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.”
McLaren Racing’s CEO, Zak Brown who has worked closely with Alonso since the team returned to F1 in 2015 was quoted in the statement too:
“Fernando is not only an outstanding ambassador for McLaren but also for Formula 1. 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.
“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.
“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.”
On the surface, the team and Alonso seem to be parting on a good note but it’s been a well documented situation that the 37-year old two-time F1 champion has been having a run of poor performance for the fourth year in a row now, even with a Renault engine replacing the Honda one. He is also participating in the WEC season for Toyota this year in parallel to F1 which allowed him to take victory at Le Mans, bringing him one step closer to the unofficial ‘Triple Crown’ of motorsport. It is suspected that Fernando will be looking to race in IndyCar for a full season as soon as possible to have another crack at the Indy500, the last obstacle to claiming that title. However, no official announcement regarding that is known as of yet.
Fernando Alonso made his F1 debut in 2001 driving for Minardi before moving to Renault as a test driver in preparation for a racing seat in 2003. In 2005, he brought an end to the dominant run of Michael Schumacher and Ferrari, becoming the youngest world champion at the time. He truly cemented his place in F1 history when he did it again the following year for a second consecutive championship title. Since then, he’s been having an endless streak of poor luck in the sport.
In 2007, he moved to McLaren and in his bitter rivalry with then teammate Lewis Hamilton, the championship title was claimed by Kimi Raikkonen that year in the final race. So, Alonso went back to Renault but the car was no longer competitive enough in the 2008 and 2009 seasons. But he was still one of the best and so he went with what seemed like the best bet – he signed with Ferrari in 2010. Unfortunately at that time, other teams had faster cars than the ones from Maranello and Alonso struggled for five years in that car despite his best efforts and phenomenal racing abilities to push the car to its absolute limits. In 2010 and 2012, he fought valiantly against Sebastian Vettel in the unbeatable Red Bull of the era but just didn’t have enough power under his foot to seal the deal. The struggle came to an end after the 2014 season when Ferrari severly messed up in constructing a fast car as per the 2014 V6 turbo-hybrid engine rules and was fourth behind Mercedes, Red Bull and Williams too.
The following year he switched back to McLaren who were returning to the sport with high hopes. An old recipe that had worked before was being brought back into the mix – McLaren chassis, Honda power and a highly-competitve racing driver. They even had Jenson Button. But Alonso’s personal curse continued as the new power unit was plagued with reliability issues for three years in a row, before the team finally switched to a Renault engine for the 2018 season. Alas, McLaren and Alonso still struggle to finish in the points, let alone competing for podiums or race wins and I suppose this was the last let down for the Spaniard.
There are still 9 races left in the season but it’s highly unlikely that Alonso will manage a 100 podiums, even though he’s already got 97 of them. Think of that…a former world champion, in his prime years without so much as a podium finish in over 3 years. A competitor for 17 years, raced with 4 of the biggest names in the sport, has over 300 race starts but was only able to claim 2 championship titles, 32 race wins and was a runner-up thrice. His frustration is understandable even if the outbursts have at times been questionable.
Alonso’s retirement opens up a place in McLaren alongside Stoffel Vandoorne but it is anybody’s guess who would be taking that seat. Will Lando Norris move up or will a more experienced F1 driver help McLaren in their development (maybe even Robert Kubica)? What will Fernando Alonso race in next? If not IndyCar then maybe Formula E? Stay tuned and subscribe to the Auto Loons for plenty more updates to come.
It’s still possible, even if wishfully so, that he could return to F1 in 2020 for one last run before the new engine rules come into play. But as of now, this could well be the last year we see Fernando Alonso on the starting grid of a Formula One race. Here’s hoping he makes a good show of it!