Photo: McLaren F1 Team

Alonso to Step Away From Formula 1 at End of 2018 Season

By Joey Barnes, Editor-in-Chief

After much anticipation on the future of Fernando Alonso, it has been confirmed that he will step away from racing in Formula 1 at the end of the season.

The 37-year-old Spaniard owns 32 Grand Prix victories (sixth all-time) and two F1 championships.

“After 17 wonderful years in this amazing sport, it’s time for me to make a change and move on,” Alonso said.

“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.”

A two-time winner of the Monaco Grand Prix, Alonso skipped F1’s iconic race last year to compete in the Verizon IndyCar Series crown jewel event – the Indianapolis 500.

The outing was made possible with McLaren and Honda’s partnership with Andretti Autosport, which saw him lead 27 laps and in prime contention for victory until an engine failure with 21 laps to go.

Despite missing out on another go at the Borg Warner Trophy this year, Alonso dipped into the FIA World Endurance Championship to chase, and capture their grandest race – the 24 Hours of Le Mans – with Toyota.

The three races make up the Triple Crown and are viewed as perhaps the greatest accomplishment in motorsports, a feat that only the legendary Graham Hill has conquered. Now with two of the three checked off the list, a return to Indianapolis seems imminent for Alonso.

Zak Brown, CEO of McLaren, shared his thoughts over Alonso’s decision.

“Fernando is not only an outstanding ambassador for McLaren but also for Formula 1,” Brown said. “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.”

A career that began in 2001 at Minardi, he moved to Renault the following season to become the team’s test driver and ended up in the full-time seat by ‘03 and captured back-to-back titles in ‘05 and ’06. Looking for a new challenge, he signed up with McLaren in ’07 and teamed with a rookie named Lewis Hamilton. The situation became toxic and he returned to Renault for the next two seasons. From 2010 to 2014, he wore the legendary red overalls of Scuderia Ferrari. He returned for a second stint with McLaren in 2015, hoping to help rebuild the Woking-based squad. The road was tough as the team moved from Honda to Renault power, but it’s safe to say he is leaving the F1 squad better than he found it.

Despite not tasting victory since the Spanish Grand Prix in 2013, there is little doubt he is still in top form.One of the greatest drivers in F1 history, there is maybe more anticipation over his next move than there ever was over his decision to step away from the sport.

Overall, there is still the rest of this year to tackle as he stands three podiums shy of 100 and is likely to move into second all-time with 311 Grand Prix starts, behind only Rubens Barrichello at 322.

“I want to thank everyone at McLaren. My heart is with the team forever,” Alonso said. “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.”

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Joey Barnes is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Motorsports Tribune. He has covered auto racing since 2013 that has spanned from Formula 1 to NASCAR, with coverage on IndyCar. Additionally, his work has appeared on Racer, IndyCar.com and Autoweek magazine. In 2017, he was recognized with an award in Spot News Writing by the National Motorsports Press Association.