The Formula 1 paddock united on Saturday night in Abu Dhabi to bid farewell to Fernando Alonso in a special event that saw both the sport's bosses and the Yas Marina Circuit honour the Spaniard ahead of his final grand prix start.

Two-time F1 world champion Alonso will exit the sport following Sunday's Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, but has left the door open to a potential return in the future, and is set to remain involved with McLaren's F1 interests.

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In a special event held in the Abu Dhabi paddock, Alonso was shown a number of video messages from integral figures from his F1 career including Luca di Montezemolo, Flavio Briatore, Stefano Domenicali and Zak Brown, as well as on-track rivals and teammates such as Sebastian Vettel, Felipe Massa, Giancarlo Fisichella and Kimi Raikkonen.

Alonso was also presented with a special edition print by F1 CEO Chase Carey and commercial boss Sean Bratches, while the Yas Marina Circuit announced it would be leaving the artwork put up in the drivers' briefing room for his final race intact, renaming it the 'Fernando Alonso Drivers' Briefing Room'.

"Even if I will try and I will drive different series, and I will try to race around the world, I think my life will always be with Formula 1. I will always be a Formula 1 driver, or an ex-Formula 1 driver," Alonso said.

"My driving style, my philosophy on driving, my skills to drive a racing car will always be behind a Formula 1. I love this sport. I fell in love at a very early age, looking at my icons and my idols.

"I’m happy that I will be around, maybe not driving the car but I will always be a Formula 1 fan."

"On behalf of Formula 1, I want to say how special this is. Sports are built on heroes, champions, stars, and Fernando is all of those and more," said Carey.

"You’ve been a hero to people around the world, you have fans around the world. We couldn’t be more appreciative of everything you have done for the sport, and we hope you will continue to if not race in a car with us, continue to be a part of our family and be a part of what makes Formula 1 so special.

"It’s been a privilege to have the opportunity to watch you race, and to watch what you’ve done and watch what you’ve achieved."

Carey finished by saying: "Try and get back in a car sometime!"

Asked how he would like to be remembered in F1, Alonso said: "As a fighter, as a guy that never gives up. I’ve been driving very good cars, I’ve been driving slower cars but with the same motivation, the same ambition and the same love for racing.

"I race every week of my life. Sometimes it’s here in this paddock, some other weekends it’s on a go-kart track, some others in sports cars, if not in the video games. I’m a full time race driver. That’s probably the way I hope people will think about me in the future."

Alonso will make his final start from 15th on the grid on Sunday.

 

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