FERNANDO Alonso has announced that he will leave McLaren and “move on” from Formula One at the end of the season.
Alonso, a two-time world champion, is currently racing in his 17th season in F1 and has promised to finish the 2018 championship with “more commitment and passion than ever”.
The 37-year-old Spaniard says “new exciting challenges are around the corner” and is expected to make a full-time switch to the Indy Car series.
“After 17 wonderful years in this amazing sport, it’s time for me to make a change and move on,” Alonso told the official McLaren website.
“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.
“There are still several grands prix to go this season, and I will take part in them with more commitment and passion than ever.
“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.”
Oviedo-born Alonso was destined for a career in motorsport having started karting from the age of three.
Alonso won three consecutive karting championships in Spain and became world champion in 1996.
He made his Formula One debut with Minardi in 2001 before moving to Renault as a test driver the following year.
Alonso became the youngest F1 drivers’ world champion in 2005 at the age of 24 years and 58 days and retained the title in 2006.
He spent one season at McLaren and another two at Renault before joining Ferrari in 2010.
Alonso finished second in the world championship standings three times at Ferrari and rejoined McLaren in 2015.
During his F1 career he has claimed 32 wins, 22 pole positions and 97 podiums.
Alonso thanked Chase Carey (F1 chief executive officer) and Liberty Media in his statement “for the efforts made to change my mind”.
And he added in a personal video posted on Instagram: “You were not expecting me and I was not sure if I want to know you.
“When I barely knew how to walk, I ran straight towards the noise, the circuits, without knowing anything about you.
“We had very good times, some unforgettable, others really bad. We have played together against incredible rivals. You played with me and I learned how to play with you too.
“I have seen you changing, sometimes for good and sometimes for – in my opinion – bad.
“Every time I close my visor on my helmet, I feel your warm embrace, your energy that is nothing like it.
“But today, I have some other bigger challenges that those can offer me.
“And this year, while still driving at my best, is how I want to remember you.
“I can only be grateful to you, and the people that are part of you for giving me so many cultures, traditions, languages, wonderful people.
“For having been my life, I know you love me but be sure, I love you too.”
McLaren Racing CEO Zak Brown said: “Fernando is not only an outstanding ambassador for McLaren but also for Formula 1.
“His 17 years in the sport, as arguably the pre-eminent driver of his generation and undoubtedly an F1 great, have added another layer to Formula 1’s rich history.”