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18 Thoughts from F1 2018: Alonso finally admits defeat in bid for third title

Written by  Dec 19, 2018

For Fernando Alonso, hopes were high heading into 2018 that after three years of frustration with Honda, finally, McLaren would be back on the right track.

With a much more trusted engine in Renault powering the MCL33, he made the big prediction that the British team would be back where it belonged, fighting towards the front of the grid.

It didn't happen. From the first day of pre-season testing, when the left-rear wheel came loose rounding Barcelona's final corner, it quickly became clear this would be another year of disappointment.

Following the first-day crash, McLaren then struggled with overheating issues related to their new power unit which would set back their development before it had really even started and from there it got steadily worse.

There were highlights, Alonso held off Max Verstappen to claim fifth in Australia and would actually finish inside the top eight in the first five races.

After that, however, he would score only have four points results in the following 16 Grands Prix, all of which led to his decision during the summer that now was the time to move on from Formula 1.

It was an acknowledgement that, despite his near misses at Ferrari and the failure of McLaren's attempted renaissance with Honda, the goal of securing a third world championship was no longer possible. 

The promise of improvements had kept the double world champion on the grid in recent years even if Fernando's focus had started to shift as he took on new challenges elsewhere.

Then, after Zak Brown initiated an overhaul of the McLaren structure in July, the realisation set in that the team wouldn't be competing for wins or titles anytime soon and that meant F1 was no longer Alonso's place to be.

Certainly, there is still no doubts about his talent, his exploits in the WEC with Toyota team prove that, as did his decimation of Stoffel Vandoorne, a driver once tipped for stardom.

But now, there's only one goal in the 37-year-old's career, add the Indianapolis 500 to his resume and become the second man in history to win motorsport's Triple Crown.

That has become his way of vindicating himself as one of the greatest of all time, even if most already do recognise his position as one of the best.

Next year, he'll remain with McLaren and head back to the Brickyard to try and achieve that goal, and F1 will no doubt watch on as one of their most valuable assets for nearly two decades shows them what they're missing.

There also does remain talk of a future come back in 2020, but examples of a driver returning a few years after intentionally retiring are pretty rare.

Add to that there's no real sign that much will alter in F1 over the next few years to attract Alonso back.

Sure there'll be a few rule changes which may appease some of his criticisms of the sport today, but that doesn't change the fact that McLaren won't be catching the top teams at least before the middle of the next decade.

The top teams have also already long looked past hiring Fernando as the next generation of stars like Charles Leclerc, Max Verstappen, Esteban Ocon, Lando Norris to name a few, step up to the plate.

So while Fernando Alonso will no doubt be missed as a driver in F1, even if he'll likely still be around the paddock at several races with his experience and know-how very helpful to McLaren.

His departure should be seen more as recognition from a bonafide great of his generation that his time at the top had come to an end rather than a failure of the sport to accommodate him.

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