The McLaren F1 team that Fernando Alonso, two-time F1 champion and 2018 24 Hours of Le Mans winner, will not compete in the 2019 Formula 1 season. Alonso says he will finish up the remainder of 2018 with the team, but hasn't yet revealed where he'll go next.
There have been rumors McLaren would enter IndyCar full time next year, but neither the team nor Alonso commented on future plans in this announcement. The 37-year old Spaniard put together a video sharing his fondest memories of his F1 career, which he shared on Twitter.
“After 17 wonderful years in this amazing sport, it’s time for me to make a change and move on," Alonso said in the McLaren 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."
“Let’s see what the future brings; new exciting challenges are around the corner," he added. "I’m having one of the happiest times ever in my life but I need to go on exploring new adventures."
"There is a time for everyone to make a change and Fernando has decided the end of this season to be his," said Zak Brown, CEO of McLaren Racing. "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."
Replacing Alonso's seat at McLaren will be Carlos Sainz Jr., formerly of Renault.
Alonso has raced in Formula One since 2001. He began his F1 career at Benetton as a test driver before moving to Minardi. From there he went to Renault, then to McLaren, then back to Renault, then to Ferrari, and finally, back to McLaren again, where he's remained until now. Over his career, he took two world championships with Renault (2005 and 2006) and amassing a total of 32 wins, 22 pole positions, and 97 podiums. His last race win came in 2013 during the Spanish Grand Prix with Ferrari.
While Alonso is stepping away from Formula One, he still maintains a full-time seat in the World Endurance Championship with Toyota, so it's not like he's without a job. His team took victory at the 24 Hours of Le Mans this year, don't forget.