One of the greatest racing drivers of our generation is leaving the paddock. That’s right: Fernando Alonso is calling time on his Formula One career.
“After 17 wonderful years in this amazing sport, it’s time for me to make a change and move on,” Alonso said in a statement released by his McLaren team. “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.”
A fixture on the grid for the past 17 years, the now 37-year-old Spaniard became the youngest champion in F1 history when he scored the first of his two titles in 2005. He’s accrued 32 wins, 22 poles, and 97 podiums over the course of his career, which will come to an end after the remaining races of this season.
“I made this decision some months ago and it was a firm one,” continued 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.”
The decision may have been a long time coming as Fernando’s winningest days are years behind him. His two world championships came with Renault over a decade ago, he hasn’t won a race in five years now, or even landed on the podium in the past four.
Chalk most of that up to the uncompetitive cars with which he’s been saddled – in his most recent years at McLaren especially. Perhaps most frustrating for Alonso (and telling of his talents) is that he finished runner-up three times with Ferrari, twice just a handful of points behind Sebastian Vettel – losing by four points in 2010 and three in 2012.
Coming that close only to fall further and further behind has evidently been too heartbreaking for one of the top-rated drivers on the grid, so he’s calling it quits. At least on F1, and at least for now.
“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,” Alonso explained. “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.”
Alonso has shown promise recently competing in other racing disciplines. He skipped the Monaco Grand Prix last year to try his hand at the Indianapolis 500 (with McLaren’s support), and more recently won the 24 Hours of Le Mans with Toyota. He’s contracted for more races in the FIA World Endurance Championship, and contested the 24 Hours of Daytona earlier this year with United Autosports (the team founded by McLaren chief Zak 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,” said Brown. “Fernando is an important part of our story and will join an illustrious line of McLaren drivers.”