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Alonso And McLaren To Split

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, August 16 2018

Two-time Formula One driving champion Fernando Alonso will not return to McLaren next year.

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

Fernando Alonso’s desire to “explore new adventures” in motorsports will continue in 2019, albeit not in Formula One.

A two-time F1 World Driving Champion, Alonso confirmed this week he will not compete with McLaren/Renault in the FIA’s F1 World Championship in 2019 _ without addressing his full-time future plans.

“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. “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.

“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. 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.”

Alonso is ninth in the F1 driver standings with 44 points, one behind Denmark’s Kevin Magnussen of American-owned Haas F1 Team.

Alonso, 37, made his F1 debut in 2001 and has been on the grid every year since 2003, including the last five with the organization founded by Bruce McLaren. But in pursuit of the “Triple Crown” of motorsports, Alonso took on the challenge of qualifying and competing in the Indianapolis 500 in May 2017.

This season, Alonso turned to sports car racing, driving for United Autosports in the IMSA Weather Tech SportsCar Series’ Rolex 24 at Daytona in January. In June, Alonso teamed with Kazuki Nakajima of Japan and Sebastien Buemi of Switzerland to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans for Toyota Gazoo Racing. A two-time winner of F1’s Monaco Grand Prix, Alonso is one of 13 drivers to have won two legs of the “Triple Crown.”  

American Zak Brown, McLaren Racing’s chief executive officer, secured Alonso’s ride with Andretti Autosport at Indianapolis Motor Speedway to keep his star interested at a time when the F1 organization largely had been uncompetitive. Alonso led his first oval track race around the 2.5-mile IMS layout four times for 27 laps and was running eighth when sidelined by an engine failure. He finished 29th but was voted the race’s Rookie of the Year.

“Fernando is not only an outstanding ambassador for McLaren but also for Formula 1,” Brown said in a statement. “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 native of Spain, Alonso has compiled 32 F1 victories, 22 pole positions and 97 podiums. His 302 grand prix starts rank fourth on the all-time list. He won his first world championship with Renault in 2005 _ as the then-youngest World Champion (24 years, 58 days) _and repeated with the team in 2006. He also has finished as point runnerup on three occasions.

“I made this decision some months ago and it was a firm one,” Alonso said. “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, teammates, 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.”

Alonso is scheduled to continue competing in the World Endurance Championship’s 2018-2019 Super Season in the point-leading Toyota Prototype.

Team-owner Michael Andretti extended an open invitation for Alonso to compete with his Honda-powered organization in the Verizon IndyCar Series after his successful and popular Indy 500 debut. Alonso now could surface as the leading candidate for Brown and Andretti in McLaren’s rumored return to the domestic open-wheel series.

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, August 16 2018
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