After months and months of speculation, it's now official: Fernando Alonso will not be racing in Formula 1 next year.

In a statement issued on Tuesday by McLaren and in a video posted to Alonso's Twitter account, his departure from the F1 grid for 2019 was confirmed, drawing the curtain - for now, as this is not a retirement - on a career that started back in 2001.

5774263478001

CrashTV: 

The twists and turns of Alonso's career since then have been well-documented: the early success, the fall-outs, the burned bridges, the wrong turns, the outstanding moments. We've seen it all. But with no chance of fighting at the front of the pack in 2019, Alonso saw it as the right time to take a step back.

He confirmed in his statement he had made the decision "some months ago" and despite "efforts made to change my mind" remained firm.

So the question now is what next for Fernando Alonso?

His adventure over the last couple of years exploring other racing formats and series, dabbling in IndyCar and the FIA World Endurance Championship, has been one of the most exciting stories in all of motorsport, breaking the mould from the traditional racers we have seen stick to a single category.

Alonso's goals had shifted. He openly said when he announced his entry to the Indianapolis 500 last year that if he couldn't beat Michael Schumacher's tally of seven world titles, the other way he saw to establish himself as one of motorsport's all-time greats was to become the second man in history to complete the 'triple crown of motorsport'.

While it is a feat he coveted, it is one that was borne out of necessity. Had the McLaren-Honda partnership delivered the riches it promised back in 2015, Alonso would not have been looking at IndyCar or sports car racing at this stage in his career. And yet it has resulted in the most rewarding experience of his racing career.

"I’m more connected to the sport and to being a better driver," Alonso said when asked by Crash.net about his external racing commitments back in April.

"I think sometimes here in Formula 1 you live in a very small world. You think that winning here will put you in a better level, or you are better than other drivers. I think motorsport in general is a very big world. There are very talented drivers in go-karts, in Formula 3, in Japan, in WEC, in Indy. It’s very challenging if you want to beat all of them.

"If you want to beat all of them in Formula 1, it’s a very small group. Normally your car helps to beat the slower cars, and your car will not allow you to beat the quickest cars. So it’s not a fair comparison. So I think doing Indy or WEC or other races, I challenge myself much more, and you become a better driver."

Alonso may be quitting F1, but he clearly has little intention of slowing down any time soon.

Right now, Alonso has three races already scheduled for 2019, all coming as part of his WEC duties with Toyota in the LMP1 class. He may have joined the series with the primary objective of winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans to help his triple crown bid - something he managed on debut back in June - yet Alonso now finds himself in a strong position to win the title itself. Should he return to F1 in the future, he could do so technically as a three-time world champion.

Alonso's first WEC race of 2019 comes at Sebring on the same weekend as the start of the new F1 season. He's then also got races set at Spa in early May before a second shot at Le Mans in June. He's loved every part of his WEC adventure, so it would be little surprise to see him extend his stint in the series beyond the current 'super season'.

But the priority of Alonso moving forward will be the Indy 500. The triple crown is what he craves, and that is the only part missing from his CV. He soaked up every moment of his debut appearance in 2017, when he qualified fifth and fought for the lead early on before dropping back down the order and eventually retiring due to an engine failure.

A full-season IndyCar campaign would be possible for Alonso, but it's unclear who with. McLaren has been considering an entry to IndyCar, with team boss Zak Brown saying back in June a decision would have to be taken by the summer. No official call has been made yet, with interest seeming to cool. In terms of his racing schedule, Alonso could easily balance his remaining WEC duties with an IndyCar season. Tony Kanaan raced in the WEC opener at Spa and at Le Mans, while Scott Dixon is also a regular fixture in the 24-hour classic.

But realistically, McLaren is the only team that could afford to pay Alonso the kind of money he's grown accustomed to in F1; not even leading IndyCar teams Penske or Ganassi would consider a full-season lay-out to him on his current rate.

If McLaren doesn't make the move into IndyCar full-time for 2019, then another one-off entry to the Indy 500 would definitely be on the cards. Talks about a full-season programme in association with Andretti Autosport, the partner for Alonso's '500 entry last year, had advanced in the early part of the summer. A repeat of the McLaren-Honda-Andretti entry is a definite possibility.

We know Alonso is a racer through and through. So would he consider a pay cut to do IndyCar full-time? Or would he commit to doing another season in WEC, bolting on the Indy 500 to his schedule, and spend his many extra free race weekends focusing on his karting school and his clothing brand, Kimoa?

Regardless of his next move, the F1 grid will be a poorer place for Alonso's absence next year. And wherever he does land will benefit greatly from one of the truest racers in all of motorsport.

Comments

Loading Comments...