Formula One: 'Exciting challenges' ahead of Fernando Alonso

Fernando Alonso during a press conference on June 21, 2018.
Fernando Alonso during a press conference on June 21, 2018.PHOTO: REUTERS

He will quit F1 after 17 years and may move to IndyCar; Sainz tipped to replace him at McLaren

LONDON • With his two Formula One world championships now a distant memory, Fernando Alonso has finally had enough of life in the slow lane with McLaren.

The Spaniard is revered as a master of his metier, but his reservoir of patience with an under-performing car has finally hit empty.

The only surprise about Tuesday's announcement that he was retiring from F1 at the end of the season to possibly move on to IndyCar from next year was that it had not come sooner, having become increasingly disenchanted with F1.

Alonso, into his 17th F1 season and his fifth with McLaren, is ninth in the drivers' championship standings. While his storied career has included 32 wins, 22 pole positions and 97 podiums, he has not won a race since his victory at the 2013 Spanish Grand Prix with Ferrari.

"After 17 wonderful years in this amazing sport, it's time for me to make a change and move on. Let's see what the future brings, new exciting challenges are around the corner," he said in a statement.

He thanked F1 chief executive Chase Carey and owner Liberty Media for trying to get him to change his mind, but his decision was "firm and made some months ago" .

According to ESPN, McLaren will announce Renault's Carlos Sainz as his replacement later this week.

"There is a time for everyone to make a change and Fernando has decided the end of this season to be his," McLaren chief executive Zak Brown said. "We respect his decision, even if we believe he is in the finest form of his career."

Since his return to ailing McLaren in 2015, Alonso, 37, has displayed great stoicism and humour amid the famous British team's struggles to produce a car to match the might of Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull. He has not finished on the podium since rejoining McLaren.

The first Spaniard and then youngest driver to be crowned world champion in 2005, he has long nurtured a dream to emulate the late Graham Hill and land motorsport's coveted Triple Crown.

And his probable switch to IndyCar may well see him realise that ambition. He has two legs in the bag, the Monaco Grand Prix and the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which he won on his debut in June.

That leaves the fabled Indy500 - he led the field on his debut last year before his engine blew.

While leaving the door open for a possible return to the circuit, Alonso gave every indication in an emotionally-charged message on Instagram, that he was bidding goodbye for good, saying: "I know (McLaren) will come back stronger and better in the future and it could be the right moment for me to be back in the series.

"When I barely knew how to walk, I ran straight towards the noise, the circuits, without knowing anything about you.

"We had very good times, some unforgettable, others really bad. We have played together against incredible rivals. You played with me and I learned how to play with you.

"I have seen you changing, sometimes for good and sometimes for - in my opinion - bad. I know you love me but be sure, I love you too."

He has promised to see out the remainder of this F1 season with "more commitment and passion than ever", but his departure will surely be another motorsport's gain.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 16, 2018, with the headline ''Exciting challenges' are ahead for Alonso'. Print Edition | Subscribe