Fernando Alonso – F1 exit has not yet sunk in

After finishing 11th in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix on Sunday night, Fernando Alonso said it had not yet sunk in that he may have raced in Formula One for the last time.

Alonso announced his plan to leave F1 earlier this year in order to pursue a win at the Indy 500 — the last victory he needs to secure motorsport’s unofficial triple crown.

A number of tributes have been paid to the double world champion in Abu Dhabi this weekend to mark his final race, including a one-off livery on his McLaren, a paddock barbeque on Saturday night and the Yas Marina driver briefing room being painted in an Alonso-themed mural and named in his honour. But the most memorable moment was saved for the slowdown lap after the grand prix when his McLaren was flanked by Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes and Sebastian Vettel’s Ferrari before all three stopped on the pit straight to perform donuts.

“It was magic, it was magic,” he said of his last grand prix. “The whole weekend has been amazing and the in-lap was not planned. I saw them [Hamilton and Vettel] doing donuts at Turn 8 and then I saw one car on the left and one car on the right and they kept going like this until the finish line. It was a nice touch by them, so thank you Sebastian and thank you Lewis.

“They are both great champions and I feel very privileged to race with them and it was a great race to be fighting with the Haas drivers [for tenth place] to the very end. I think I need a couple of days to realise the whole weekend, because I have been very busy and I haven’t had five minutes for myself to think about it, but it has been a very good weekend.”

Asked if the scale of the moment had sunk in, Alonso said: “Not yet. I think in a couple of days [it will sink in]. The race was a normal race, fighting for the tyre management, the fuel saving, all these things, and fighting for points until the end, until the last lap. I had really no time in the weekend.

“This morning has been the busiest morning ever in a grand prix. I tried to sit down and check my telephone and after 30 seconds someone from the team knocked on the door and I had to say hello to a new person! It has been very, very busy, so I think I need two or three days to check and realize all the things that I lived this weekend. It will always be in my heart.”

Although Alonso is leaving the door open for a potential return to F1, he said he would be happy to walk away with Sunday’s race as his final grand prix.

“I consider this the last race. Who knows what the future will bring, but for now this is the last. I feel very happy and very privileged with all the success that I had over the years, driving for amazing teams.

“Coming from a very normal family from the north of Spain, a go-kart driver, eventually you find yourself in Formula One and winning championships and 17 years of magic in this sport. So I’m happy for that, very proud, and see you soon.”