Two-time Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso announced Tuesday he will not race in F1 in 2019.
No additional plans were mentioned.
“After 17 wonderful years in this amazing sport, it’s time for me to make a change and move on,” he 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.
“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, 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, who turned 37 in July, has 32 wins and 22 poles in 17 F1 seasons, the past five with McLaren. Beyond his two titles – in 2005 he became the then-youngest world champion in F1 history – he has been championship runner-up three times.
“Fernando is not only an outstanding ambassador for McLaren but also for Formula 1,” McLaren CEO Zak 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.”
With Alonso set to continue running the World Endurance Championship’s 2018-2019 Super Season, the next question turns to IndyCar. McLaren’s plans to field an IndyCar program are still ongoing, Brown told RACER twice leading into Mid-Ohio.
McLaren believed it was “pretty close” to signing Daniel Ricciardo before he opted to leave Red Bull and join Renault from 2019. When Ricciardo announced his move to Renault earlier this month, Brown told RACER the move would not impact Alonso’s decision on his future, nor McLaren’s.
“I think it’s thrown a spanner in the works for some other teams but we’ve got a plan which we are executing against which Ricciardo’s move doesn’t impact,” Brown said.
“[Red Bull] is a great racing team but I think Fernando has got what he wants to do in the back of his mind. Never say never, but I don’t think it changes anything in Fernando’s world.”