McLaren driver Fernando Alonso officially announced that he will be stepping away from F1 from 2019 onwards. With teammate Stoffel Vandoorne also leaving, it leaves McLaren fielding a brand new lineup.
Coming back to the Spaniard, he has had a long a successful career spanning 17 years. He made his debut with Minardi in 2001 before joining Renault as a test driver in 2002. A year later, he was promoted to a race seat and stayed with them until the 2006 season.
During that time, he won the championship twice. He had a brief stint with McLaren before rejoining Renault. He joined Ferrari and remained there for four years. Finally, he joined McLaren and would stay there until now. So what will F1 miss about the Spaniard?
Quick off the Blocks
Alonso is arguably one of the best starters on the F1 grid. This was particularly highlighted during the 2011 season. Even now, in that hunk of scrap metal, they call the McLaren, he is still capable of nailing the start. Case in point, the 2011 Spanish Grand Prix. The Spanish driver qualified 4th, behind the Red Bull duo and Lewis Hamilton’s McLaren. But when the lights went out, the Ferrari driver found himself leading into Turn 1.
All We Hear is Radio Gaga
The second McLaren stint was anything but successful for Fernando Alonso. The Woking team were under the impression that they were ushering in a new era of glory with the Honda partnership. Boy were they colossally wrong! To say that the car was uncompetitive would be the understatement of the century.
The only good thing that came out of this was giving Alonso an alternate career as a comedian. Who could forget Alonso’s anguished cries of “GP2 Engine! GP2 Engine! Argh!”. Other such zingers included, “The engine feels good, much slower than before. Amazing!”
Never Gonna Give You Up
When Fernando Alonso is around, one thing is for sure, he Never… Ever… Gives Up. Despite all the jokes and ridicule on how terrible the McLaren is, it brought out a different beast in Alonso. No matter where he is on the grid, he will wrangle every ounce of performance out of his car.
One perfect example is the 2018 Azerbaijan Grand Prix. The 37-year old was involved in first lap chaos and came away with two punctured tyres and floor damage. Despite that, he managed to claw his way back up the order to finish in a well-deserved 7th.
In his 17 years in the sport, Alonso has overtaken his fair share of fellow drivers. Those overtakes have been nothing short of epic! From duels with Michael Schumacher in his prime to trading paint jobs with the likes of Sebastian Vettel, Lewis Hamilton, Kimi Raikkonen and others, he’s done it all.
One such overtake that stands out is during the 2012 Brazilian Grand Prix. Teammate Felipe Massa and Red Bull’s Mark Webber were duking it out when Alonso snuck up on the two of them. They were so focused on each other that they did not notice Alonso diving down the inside of both of them into the Senna S.
Don’t Mind Me
Coming back to the troublesome McLaren days, as mentioned before, Alonso has seen the funny side to his predicament. During the 2016 Brazilian GP, Alonso’s car juddered to a halt in FP2, as usual. Conventionally, he should return to the McLaren garage. Instead, he stayed out and tried to explore a new career path, as a cameraman. Sadly, the work was a bit… sloppy but he did have a jolly good time.
He brought out his funny bone again during the 2016 Spanish Grand Prix. Red Bull had just swapped rising star Max Verstappen and Daniil Kvyat from Toro Rosso to Red Bull and vice-versa respectively. But Alonso seemingly didn’t even notice the swap, much to Hamilton’s amusement. Also, he was self-appointed as the ‘peacekeeper’ for any conflict between Hamilton and Nico Rosberg, at the 2014 Italian GP.