Fernando Alonso has predicted that McLaren will be more competitive next year, but it's too late for him, because the two-time world champion ends his Formula One (F1) career on Sunday.
The 37-year-old Spaniard won the world titles in 2005 and 2006 at Renault but has since chased glory in a career ranging from triumph to frustration on many occasions.
From an ill-fated and toxic first term at McLaren in 2007 alongside then debutant Lewis Hamilton, and agony in not fully competitive Ferraris and McLarens later on, Alonso has endured plenty of drama after once ending Michael Schumacher's incredible title streak.
Alonso was reportedly not the easiest driver to work with on his various teams, but he insisted recently that a certain selfishness is needed to prevail in the sport. "You need to have no heart," he told the F1 website. "You are not enemies with the other drivers, but you have to focus on yourself to win. If you can ‘hurt' someone by getting an advantage over them, that's even better."
Sunday's season-ending Abu Dhabi race will be the 313th and last grand prix since a 2001 debut for arguably one of the best drivers in the sport who claimed 22 pole positions and won 32 races - the last success however dating back to the 2013 home event in Spain.
"Abu Dhabi will certainly be a very emotional race for me, as it will be the end of a long and happy 17 years in F1," he said. He added in an interview with ESPN he is leaving because he has achieved everything in F1. "This part of my career is done - it was a success. I have ticked the box. I need to go for another tick and find another box to fill. That's the only reason," he said.
Alonso has confirmed that he will return to race in the Indy500 - for McLaren - with the intention to become only the second driver to achieve the triple crown of winning the Indy, the Monaco F1 race and the 24 hours of Le Mans. Alonso has already won in Monaco and Le Mans, and emulating Graham Hill would make him a motorsport legend after all the F1 hardship, although McLaren boss Zak Brawn insists "he is a legend for the team and the championship." His former engineer Mark Temple told the F1 website: "He's the most intelligent driver I've worked with. Combine this intelligence with a supreme level of natural talent and you're left with a very potent combination."
Hamilton has also named Alonso "a phenomenal driver" but also believes he could have had more success if he had made better decisions "outside the cockpit" regarding his team choices. Alonso started his F1 career at Minardi before earning a Renault seat in 2003, becoming the youngest pole sitter and race winner at the time aged 22 in his first year - and the youngest world champion two years later.
Alonso confirmed his class with the second title in 2006 before leaving for McLaren where he hoped to be as successful as the great Ayrton Senna who won his three titles at the British team. But the rookie Hamilton surprised him with incredible speed and became a fierce rival, Alonso's relationship with team principal Ron Dennis also deteriorated rapidly - and Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen eventually stole the title by one point from the McLaren duo.
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