Fernando Alonso says bringing Formula 1 into the mainstream sporting spotlight in Spain and becoming his county’s leading figure is the greatest achievement of his career so far.

The two-time F1 world champion waved goodbye to the sport at the end of last season after 18 years, as he pursues the prestigious Triple Crown of motorsport with a return to the Indianapolis 500 in May.

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Alonso, who is also taking on this month’s Rolex 24 at Daytona and completing the current World Endurance Championship this year, spent time reflecting on his F1 achievements and felt his influence for Spain's F1 interest stands as his proudest success.

The 2005 and 2006 F1 world champion claimed 32 Grand Prix victories across his career and remains the only Spaniard to win an F1 race and a world title.

“I am very proud. I think you only realise with time, when you see how many people follow the sport now in Spain, in my region in Asturias, how many people travel to Oviedo to visit the museum, to have the first go in go-karts,” Alonso said in Abu Dhabi.

“A lot of people started following Formula 1 and not Formula 1, motorsports in general, in my country, which definitely was not a tradition. We were not broadcasting the races in 2001, 2002, I think it started in the middle of 2003. Something that is unthinkable now, when Formula 1 is the second or third sport in Spain, that’s something that I feel really proud of.”

In 2005 Alonso was awarded the Premio Principe de Asturias, given for notable achievements in science, humanities, public affairs and sport, for clinching his maiden F1 world title and he still rates the award higher than any others.

“The Premio Principe de Asturias is probably the biggest thing I achieved, even more than any Formula 1 championship,” he said.

“That kind of award is about changing people’s lives and introducing a lot of people into one sport. So, those kinds of things are much bigger than any trophy.”

Alonso is aiming to become just the second driver in history to secure the Triple Crown after Graham Hill who won two F1 titles (1962 and 1968), one Indy 500 (1966) and completed the feat with victory at Le Mans 24 Hours in 1972.

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