FERNANDO Alonso will vacate his seat at the McLaren Formula 1 team and cease racing in the sport at the end of this season.
The two-time Formula 1 World Champion published a video to social media overnight that features a love letter read to Formula 1 as if it were a person. The racer sums up his life-long infatuation with the sport, and signs off after 17 seasons as a driver.
“When I barely knew how to walk I ran towards your noise, your circuits, without knowing anything about you. We had very good times, some unforgettable, others really bad.
“But today I have some other bigger challenges, and this year while still driving at my best is how I want to remember you.”
McLaren confirmed Alonso’s decision to adjourn his F1 career in a statement issued shortly afterwards, in which chief executive officer Zak Brown describes the Spaniard as “arguably the pre-eminent driver of his generation and undoubtedly an F1 great.
“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,” said Brown.
Both Alonso and McLaren have stopped short of calling this decision a retirement. Alonso, who is now 37, has left the door open for a return to F1 should the situation at McLaren improve.
“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,” said Alonso.
“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.”
Earlier in the week Alonso took to Twitter with a somewhat cryptic post alluding to the date of this announcement. The characters ’14-08’ were enough to send the Twittersphere rumour mill into overdrive, especially after the official IndyCar account responded to Alonso saying, “We still on for lunch tomorrow?”
Though a move to IndyCar is anticipated by many, where Alonso will go next remains unconfirmed. Also yet to be determined is who will take Alonso’s place at McLaren for 2019.
Alonso has not won a race in F1 since 2013. Over his career to date he has collected 32 wins, 22 pole positions and 97 podiums, with nine grands prix left to run this season. In 2005 while racing for Renault, Alonso became the then-youngest world champion in F1 history, which he backed up the following year with his second title. He has been championship runner-up three times.
Several teams will be shuffling their rosters following this announcement, combined with Daniel Ricciardo’s decision to leave Red Bull and an inevitable move to Force India from Williams for Lance Stroll after his father rescued the ailing outfit from administration.