Many years ago Fernando Alonso was a whinger. I used to refer to him as the sulky Spaniard. He was 20 at the time, but he is now 37 and has mellowed in the 17 years of competing at the F1 level.
Fernando has been the world champion twice, had 32 wins, 22 pole positions and 97 podiums to date.
Beyond his two titles – in 2005 he became the then-youngest world champion in F1 history – Fernando has been championship runner-up three times.
“After 17 wonderful years in this amazing sport, it’s time for me to make a change and move on,” said the Spaniard. “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. (I wonder, which PR person wrote all that for him?)
He went on to say, “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.”
“Fernando is not only an outstanding ambassador for McLaren but also for Formula 1,” added Zak Brown of McLaren. “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 Sheikh Mohammed, Mansour and our entire board, we wish Fernando every success in the future.”
On Saturday, Alonso tweeted a cryptic message indicating that an announcement of some sort would be made today. Interestingly, yesterday, the official Indy Car site ran a brief story mentioning the tweet, along with a number of messages from fans hoping to see the Spaniard jump ship from F1 and reminding readers that victory in the Indy 500 is all that’s preventing the Spaniard from emulating Graham Hill in achieving motor sport’s Triple Crown, a made up award incorporating F1, Le Mans and the Indy 500.
While Alonso may well head to Indy Car next season, it remains to be seen who will replace him at McLaren, with Lando Norris, a top F2 driver, expected by many to be making the step up to F1.