Top Stories of 2018, #2: Alonso steps away amid McLaren woes

Did he quit or was he pushed out? That was the question is everyone’s mind since Fernando Alonso announced his retirement from F1 at the end of the 2018 season.

Following 17 seasons in grand prix racing, the two-time world champion decided to put an end – for now at least – to his F1 career after year another season that failed to deliver what he had hoped for since rejoining McLaren for the start of the 2015 season.

In the end, McLaren’s reunion with Honda – a partnership that both parties hoped would help them relive their glory days – marked the beginning of the end for Alonso’s F1 career, a career marked by a lot of success but also by poor choices and bad luck.

“After 17 wonderful years in this amazing sport, it’s time for me to make a change and move on. 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,” said Alonso in his announcement.

“Let’s see what the future brings; new exciting challenges are around the corner. I’m having one of the happiest times ever in my life but I need to go on exploring new adventures.”

Since his announcement, Alonso has insisted that he had no regrets about the decision and that it was the right time to leave, suggesting often that this was not the F1 he had dreamed to be a part of.

While many, including Alonso himself, believe he would not have retired had he been in a competitive car fighting for victories, it’s hard to disagree with the Spaniard’s reasoning for not wanting to continue in F1.

Fernando Alonso, McLaren MP4-22

Photo by: Charles Coates / LAT Images

After winning his two titles with Renault, Alonso’s move to McLaren for 2007 seemed like an obvious choice and few would have objected the decision: the team was favourite among the favourites for the championships and he would have a rookie teammate in Lewis Hamilton.

How that story unfolded is well known by now, and the path Alonso followed since then led to leaving a legacy of a career that could have been much more successful than it was.

Two largely fruitless years at Renault followed his McLaren exit, before a promising start to life as a Ferrari driver in 2010 led to losing the title in the final race thanks to a strategic mistake by Ferrari.

The following year produced just one win and fourth place in the standings, but Ferrari was back in the championship hunt in 2012 and but for a dramatic recovery from Sebastian Vettel in the final race of the season after being spun at the start, Alonso would have been champion for the third time.

It was not to be, however, and he would never have a real chance of fighting for the title again after that.

He finished runner-up to Vettel again in 2013, but this time the battle was not even close, with the Red Bull driver dominating the year with 13 wins. Ferrari’s decline continued the following season, Alonso finishing the year win-less, down in sixth position in the standings and feeling his future did not belong at the Scuderia anymore.

And so he joined McLaren again for the 2014 season after the Woking team had announced its plan to re-unite with Honda from 2015.

It didn’t take long for things to go wrong for Alonso at McLaren, starting with the bizarre accident during pre-season testing that meant he was forced to miss the first two races of the season. That was probably not the worst part of Alonso’s year, though, as Honda struggled to get to terms with its hybrid engine, leaving Alonso on 11 points at the end of the season, the Spaniard’s worst points tally excluding his debut year with Minardi in 2001.

Fernando Alonso, McLaren MP4-30 Honda

Fernando Alonso, McLaren MP4-30 Honda

Photo by: Alastair Staley / LAT Images

Still, these were early days for Honda, so the feeling was the Japanese engine supplier would get much better in 2016. It was not the case. Honda made a slight improvement, but it was still far from the position Alonso dreamed of: 10th in the standings with 54 points.

As tension continued to rise in the McLaren-Honda partnership, the start of 2017 turned into another disaster, with the power unit hitting problems right away due to the design of its oil tank.

Matters would not improve much throughout the year and, with both McLaren and Alonso fed up of the situation, the team decided to split with Honda – whose engine also let him down as he fought for victory in his maiden outing in the Indy 500 – and switch to Renault engines for 2018.

While the French power unit was not up to Mercedes’ or Ferrari’s standards, it highlighted the fact that McLaren’s problem was not just the engine, with Alonso’s best result of the year coming in the first race in Australia. While the two-champion continued to drive superbly, his best moment of the year would not be in F1 but in the WEC, the Spaniard winning the Le Mans 24 Hours in his first attempt with Toyota.

While speculation about his future was rife for several months, there was simply no room for Alonso in a competitive team, so he faced the decision of staying with McLaren for another year or leaving F1 altogether.

Another season fighting in the midfield didn’t look like an appealing prospect for a driver rated as highly as Alonso, so in the end, it appears he did make the right decision. But was it the one he wanted to make? Probably not.

Click here to view the Top 20 Stories countdown so far.

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Fernando Alonso, Minardi

Fernando Alonso, Minardi

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Photo by: LAT Images

Fernando Alonso

Fernando Alonso

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Fernando Alonso, Minardi

Fernando Alonso, Minardi

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Fernando Alonso, Minardi

Fernando Alonso, Minardi

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Fernando Alonso, Minardi

Fernando Alonso, Minardi

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Fernando Alonso in Renault F1 garage area

Fernando Alonso in Renault F1 garage area

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Photo by: Brousseau Photo

Fernando Alonso and Jarno Trulli with the new Renault F1 R23

Fernando Alonso and Jarno Trulli with the new Renault F1 R23

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Renault F1 team cheer Fernando Alonso

Renault F1 team cheer Fernando Alonso

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Medical staff attend to Fernando Alonso, Renault F1 Team trackside

Medical staff attend to Fernando Alonso, Renault F1 Team trackside

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Photo by: Steve Etherington / LAT Images

Fernando Alonso, Renault Renault F1 Team R23, sitting down with the wrecked car

Fernando Alonso, Renault Renault F1 Team R23, sitting down with the wrecked car

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Photo by: LAT Images

Fernando Alonso

Fernando Alonso

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Fernando Alonso

Fernando Alonso

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Fernando Alonso

Fernando Alonso

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Fernando Alonso

Fernando Alonso

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Fernando Alonso

Fernando Alonso

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Fernando Alonso

Fernando Alonso

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Fernando Alonso

Fernando Alonso

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Fernando Alonso

Fernando Alonso

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Fernando Alonso

Fernando Alonso

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Fernando Alonso

Fernando Alonso

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Photo by: Dave Dyer

Fernando Alonso

Fernando Alonso

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Race winner Fernando Alonso, Renault R25

Race winner Fernando Alonso, Renault R25

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Photo by: Sutton Images

Fernando Alonso

Fernando Alonso

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Fernando Alonso, Renault F1 Team R25

Fernando Alonso, Renault F1 Team R25

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Photo by: Sutton Images

Pole winner Fernando Alonso celebrates

Pole winner Fernando Alonso celebrates

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Photo by: LAT Images

Race winner Fernando Alonso celebrates with Flavio Briatore

Race winner Fernando Alonso celebrates with Flavio Briatore

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Fernando Alonso

Fernando Alonso

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Fernando Alonso

Fernando Alonso

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Podium: champagne for Fernando Alonso

Podium: champagne for Fernando Alonso

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2006 F1 World Champion Fernando Alonso celebrates

2006 F1 World Champion Fernando Alonso celebrates

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Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button

Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button

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Fernando Alonso and Michael Schumacher

Fernando Alonso and Michael Schumacher

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Fernando Alonso, McLaren Mercedes, Robert Kubica, BMW Sauber F1 Team

Fernando Alonso, McLaren Mercedes, Robert Kubica, BMW Sauber F1 Team

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Photo by: XPB Images

Fernando Alonso, McLaren Mercedes, MP4-22

Fernando Alonso, McLaren Mercedes, MP4-22

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Podium: champagne for Fernando Alonso

Podium: champagne for Fernando Alonso

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Fernando Alonso, McLaren Mercedes, MP4-22

Fernando Alonso, McLaren Mercedes, MP4-22

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Fernando Alonso, McLaren Mercedes

Fernando Alonso, McLaren Mercedes

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Lewis Hamilton, McLaren Mercedes, Fernando Alonso, McLaren Mercedes

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren Mercedes, Fernando Alonso, McLaren Mercedes

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Lewis Hamilton, McLaren Mercedes, Fernando Alonso, McLaren Mercedes

Lewis Hamilton, McLaren Mercedes, Fernando Alonso, McLaren Mercedes

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Fernando Alonso, Renault F1 Team R28, leads David Coulthard, Red Bull Racing RB4

Fernando Alonso, Renault F1 Team R28, leads David Coulthard, Red Bull Racing RB4

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Photo by: Charles Coates / LAT Images

Fernando Alonso, Renault R28

Fernando Alonso, Renault R28

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Fernando Alonso, Renault R28

Fernando Alonso, Renault R28

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Fernando Alonso, Renault F1 Team

Fernando Alonso, Renault F1 Team

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Fernando Alonso, Renault F1 Team, R28

Fernando Alonso, Renault F1 Team, R28

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Fernando Alonso, Renault F1 Team

Fernando Alonso, Renault F1 Team

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Fernando Alonso, Renault R29

Fernando Alonso, Renault R29

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Photo by: Sutton Images

Fernando Alonso, Renault F1 Team

Fernando Alonso, Renault F1 Team

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Fernando Alonso, Renault F1 Team

Fernando Alonso, Renault F1 Team

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Fernando Alonso, Renault F1 Team

Fernando Alonso, Renault F1 Team

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Fernando Alonso, Renault R29

Fernando Alonso, Renault R29

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Photo by: Steven Tee / LAT Images

Fernando Alonso, Renault F1 Team

Fernando Alonso, Renault F1 Team

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Fernando Alonso, Ferrari F10

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari F10

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Photo by: Andrew Ferraro / LAT Images

Race winner Fernando Alonso, Ferrari

Race winner Fernando Alonso, Ferrari

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Photo by: Steven Tee / LAT Images

Felipe Massa, Ferrari F10, Fernando Alonso, Ferrari F10

Felipe Massa, Ferrari F10, Fernando Alonso, Ferrari F10

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Photo by: Charles Coates / LAT Images

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari F10 leads Felipe Massa, Ferrari F10

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari F10 leads Felipe Massa, Ferrari F10

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Fernando Alonso, Ferrari F10

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari F10

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Fernando Alonso, Scuderia Ferrari leads Mark Webber, Red Bull Racing

Fernando Alonso, Scuderia Ferrari leads Mark Webber, Red Bull Racing

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Fernando Alonso, Ferrari F10

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari F10

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Fernando Alonso, Ferrari

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari

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Photo by: Andrew Ferraro / LAT Images

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari F150

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari F150

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Fernando Alonso, Ferrari F150 Italia, 1st position, kisses his trophy on the podium

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari F150 Italia, 1st position, kisses his trophy on the podium

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Photo by: Steve Etherington / LAT Images

Fernando Alonso, Scuderia Ferrari

Fernando Alonso, Scuderia Ferrari

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Fernando Alonso, Scuderia Ferrari and Felipe Massa, Scuderia Ferrari

Fernando Alonso, Scuderia Ferrari and Felipe Massa, Scuderia Ferrari

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Fernando Alonso, Scuderia Ferrari

Fernando Alonso, Scuderia Ferrari

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Fernando Alonso, Ferrari F2012

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari F2012

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Fernando Alonso, Ferrari

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari

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Photo by: Ercole Colombo

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari

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Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso, Scuderia Ferrari

Felipe Massa and Fernando Alonso, Scuderia Ferrari

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Photo by: Ferrari Media Center

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari leads team mate Felipe Massa, Ferrari

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari leads team mate Felipe Massa, Ferrari

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Andrea Stella, Ferrari Race Engineer with Fernando Alonso, Ferrari on the grid

Andrea Stella, Ferrari Race Engineer with Fernando Alonso, Ferrari on the grid

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Fernando Alonso, Ferrari

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari

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Fernando Alonso, Ferrari F138

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari F138

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Photo by: Sutton Images

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari celebrates his third position on the podium

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari celebrates his third position on the podium

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Photo by: XPB Images

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari F138

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari F138

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Fernando Alonso, Scuderia Ferrari

Fernando Alonso, Scuderia Ferrari

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Fernando Alonso, Ferrari F138

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari F138

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Fernando Alonso, Ferrari F138

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari F138

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Fernando Alonso, Ferrari F14T

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari F14T

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Photo by: Charles Coates / LAT Images

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari

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Photo by: Steven Tee / LAT Images

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari F14 T, Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari F14 T

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari F14 T, Kimi Raikkonen, Ferrari F14 T

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Photo by: Sutton Images

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari F14-T

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari F14-T

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Photo by: XPB Images

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari F14-T

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari F14-T

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Fernando Alonso, Ferrari F14-T

Fernando Alonso, Ferrari F14-T

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Fernando Alonso, McLaren Honda

Fernando Alonso, McLaren Honda

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Photo by: McLaren

Fernando Alonso and Ron Dennis, Chairman & CEO of McLaren

Fernando Alonso and Ron Dennis, Chairman & CEO of McLaren

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Photo by: McLaren

Fernando Alonso, McLaren MP4-30

Fernando Alonso, McLaren MP4-30

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Photo by: XPB Images

Fernando Alonso, McLaren MP4-30

Fernando Alonso, McLaren MP4-30

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Photo by: McLaren

Eric Boullier and Fernando Alonso, McLaren MP4-30

Eric Boullier and Fernando Alonso, McLaren MP4-30

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Photo by: McLaren

Fernando Alonso, McLaren MP4-30 Honda

Fernando Alonso, McLaren MP4-30 Honda

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Photo by: Alastair Staley / LAT Images

Fernando Alonso, McLaren

Fernando Alonso, McLaren

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Photo by: McLaren

Fernando Alonso, McLaren

Fernando Alonso, McLaren

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Photo by: McLaren

Fernando Alonso, McLaren MP4-31

Fernando Alonso, McLaren MP4-31

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Fernando Alonso, McLaren F1

Fernando Alonso, McLaren F1

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Fernando Alonso, McLaren

Fernando Alonso, McLaren

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Fernando Alonso, McLaren

Fernando Alonso, McLaren

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Photo by: Zak Mauger / LAT Images

Fernando Alonso, McLaren MCL32

Fernando Alonso, McLaren MCL32

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Photo by: Sutton Images

Fernando Alonso, McLaren

Fernando Alonso, McLaren

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Photo by: Andrew Hone / LAT Images

Fernando Alonso, McLaren MCL32

Fernando Alonso, McLaren MCL32

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Photo by: Glenn Dunbar / LAT Images

Fernando Alonso, McLaren MCL32

Fernando Alonso, McLaren MCL32

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Photo by: Andrew Hone / LAT Images

Fernando Alonso, McLaren

Fernando Alonso, McLaren

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Photo by: Sutton Images

Fernando Alonso, McLaren MCL33

Fernando Alonso, McLaren MCL33

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Photo by: Andy Hone / LAT Images

Fernando Alonso, McLaren in the press conference

Fernando Alonso, McLaren in the press conference

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Fernando Alonso, McLaren MCL33

Fernando Alonso, McLaren MCL33

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Photo by: Glenn Dunbar / LAT Images

Fernando Alonso, McLaren, on the grid

Fernando Alonso, McLaren, on the grid

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Photo by: Steven Tee / LAT Images

Fernando Alonso, McLaren MCL33, performs donuts on the grid at the end of the race

Fernando Alonso, McLaren MCL33, performs donuts on the grid at the end of the race

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Photo by: Sam Bloxham / LAT Images

Fernando Alonso, McLaren says goodbye to the fans

Fernando Alonso, McLaren says goodbye to the fans

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Photo by: Simon Galloway / Sutton Images