A bittersweet farewell to Fernando Alonso
Anger of course. Frustration, too. But most of all, relief. These have been the feelings shared between F1 Racing friends and family as news of Fernando Alonso’s departure from F1 sank in.
The anger and frustration are easy enough to understand: as both Peter Windsor (p24) and Andrew Benson (p36) eloquently describe this month, a driver so richly skilled and aggressively competitive should surely have more to his account than two world titles and 32 grand prix victories. This is not to demean these considerable achievements, for Alonso’s place in the record books alongside fellow two-time champs Alberto Ascari, Graham Hill, Jim Clark, Emerson Fittipaldi and Mika Häkkinen is secure and estimable.
Yet those three second-place title finishes for Ferrari in 2010, 2012 and 2013 with the ‘joint-points second’ (with Lewis Hamilton) in ’07, speak to what might have been – and to what maybe should have been. The sense of relief comes from somewhere else – from an acceptance that an unfair struggle will soon come to an end and that new adventures await. So in that respect those of us who revere Alonso’s warrior ways can be happy that he will find other arenas in which to rage for victory.
This, he admits, is what has come to matter to him most at this stage of his career – winning, or at the very least being in the fight for victory. Without that opportunity, absent since 2013, the appeal of simply racing in F1 for its own sake could never appeal.
And here we return, alas, to anger, for F1 is lessened, even cheapened for Alonso’s loss. I am by no means alone in believing he represented the last of a certain kind of old-school racer in F1: ultrafast but not dirty; worldly, complicated, capable of volcanic rages, and, yes, a little bit dark. So while we wish the super-promising Pierre Gasly every success with his Red Bull Racing debut next year, how much more compelling would have been the war (for that’s what it would have been) between Max and Fernando, had Alonso got the gig…?
It is to the eternal discredit of F1’s team bosses and power-brokers that somehow room for Alonso wasn’t found in a top team. And to those who’ve opined that he’s “a bit difficult”, when was Formula 1 ever meant to be easy? It was once – easily forgotten – routinely lethal, which very aspect did so much to infuse F1 with its heroic qualities.
Perhaps there’s no room for such a brash and fearless character in contemporary, sanitised, Formula 1 and maybe, therefore, Fernando is better off far away from its often myopic concerns.
Whatever your view, come 2019 we’ll have one fewer hero to celebrate in F1, as one of its most exceptional players leaves the field.
Adios, Fernando. You will be missed.