With half of Spain on holiday, Fernando Alonso posted something very mysterious on Twitter, as a warning that something was going to happen. Using a simple emoji of an explosion and a date, 14-08, he indicated that Tuesday was going to be a very great day.
Many who read it were sceptical. "It's going to be some rubbish about his clothing brand, or a new sponsorship agreement," commented some. But no. The 'explosion' occurred in the mid-afternoon: Fernando Alonso Díaz, the greatest Spanish Formula 1 driver of all time, announced in an emotional letter that he was leaving the competition in which, to use his own words, he had grown up.
"You weren't expecting me and I wasn't sure I wanted to get to know you. You told me a lot of things, but I told you everything. When I barely knew how to walk, I was already running towards your noise, towards your race tracks, without knowing anything about you. Together we have had some very good times, some unforgettable ones and some other really bad ones. You have watched me grow up, get excited, we have played together against incredible rivals. I have seen you change, sometimes for the good and others, in my opinion, for the worse. Every time I close the visor of my helmet I feel your hug, your energy, and there is nothing like it. But today I have other, bigger challenges than the ones you can offer me. And this year, driving at my highest level, is how I want to remember you. I can only be grateful to you and to the people that you are, for having taught me so many cultures, customs, languages, wonderful people... for having been my life. I know you love me. And you also know that I love you," he wrote.
The decision to leave had not been a sudden one. Alonso admitted that in the statement with which McLaren confirmed the news, and in which it only had words of thanks for the driver who they still wanted to count on for the IndyCar.
"I took this decision some months ago and it is definite. Even so, I want to thank Chase Carey and Liberty Media sincerely for their efforts in trying to make me change my mind, and everyone who has contacted me during this time," said Alonso.
He came to the decision after getting into the MCL33 and Toyota TS050 for the first time. The idea of drinking champagne again at the wheel of the prototype with which he won the six hours at Spa and, which is more important, the 24 hours at Le Mans, is something he will never forget. And, above all, there was a bitter taste left in the mouth knowing that he was not going to re-live that feeling if he stayed with Formula 1, a competition in which he would never stand on the podium again unless a miracle were to occur between now and the end of the season.
Not just about the wins
When thinking about Fernando Alonso's time at Formula 1, the numbers are not the main thing one remembers. There were, however, two world titles, 32 wins, 22 pole positions, 97 podiums... these are the figures with which he has shone in the biggest motor racing competition during 17 years, sharing a track with legends such as Michael Schumacher, Sebastian Vettel and Lewis Hamilton, who have shared the glory but also seen him as a feared and well-respected rival.
His time at Formula 1 leaves a whole range of images: winning his first title in Brazil in 2005, overtaking Schumacher in the Suzuka 13Or the same year. But also his victory in Singapore in 2008, marked by the 'crashgate' controversy, or 2007, a bitter year in his first stage with McLaren. But now he is thinking about the future and, as he said in his farewell letter, the other, bigger challenges. Fernando Alonso is off to try other things.