He’s been a mercurial entity in Formula One for many years and 2018 is no different for Fernando Alonso, as his future within the illustrious sport again comes under the microscope.
The two-time world champion is now in his 17th full-time campaign, with championship aspirations having been non-existent for yet another season, as the Spaniard continues to be deprived of success in Formula One.
Well documented has been the last decade of the 36-year-old’s career, which has seen failure in his move to McLaren in 2007 and then return to Renault for a further two seasons – before the initially fruitful stint with the Scuderia.
Having returned to McLaren in 2015 following a toxic conclusion to the Ferrari tenure, Alonso has been left in a rut alongside the Woking team’s own turmoil with Honda as their engine supplier for the next three years.
It is no surprise that coming into 2018, despite McLaren’s decision to divorce Honda and attempt to recoup their losses with Renault, that the Spaniard has elected to foray into the World Endurance Championship, with LMP1’s sole surviving manufacturer in Toyota.
Seeing the former world champion emphatically spray the champagne atop the podium, following victory at his debut WEC race at the six Hours of Spa-Francorchamps, was a sight for sore eyes – having not seen Alonso on a world championship podium since 2014.
As peerless as it may have appeared, with no real competition from the privateer prototypes, the win for Alonso served as a reminder to everyone – if not himself – that he is a world class driver and a multiple world champion.
Whether the veteran can demonstrate that in Formula One again, is scenario that looks unlikelier by the day, with McLaren unable to make the gains necessary to join the leading trio of teams and neither of them showing interest in signing the soon-to-be 37-year-old for 2019.
Hence why this adventure into sportscar racing and the quest to claim the coveted 24 Hours of Le Mans come mid-June is a pivotal event in determining Alonso’s future in Formula One, with it being touted that 2018 will be his last behind the wheel of the pinnacle of open-wheel motorsport.
This might not be the last time though that we see the Spaniard steering a papaya-orange McLaren, with their growing interest in making a permanent return to the IndyCar series in the United States – following their bittersweetly successful assault on the Indy 500 in 2017, with Alonso skipping the Monaco Grand Prix for the challenge at the Brickyard.
Twinning an Indy campaign, with a continuation of the Super Season he’s currently contesting in the WEC, seems the likely destination for Alonso and the goal of attaining the legendary Triple Crown – comprised the Monaco Grand Prix, Indy 500 and 24 Hours of Le Mans.
No doubt it’ll be a huge loss for Formula One, with the belief still present that Alonso is still more than capable of challenging the likes of Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel. Though ultimately his knack for being at the wrong place at the wrong time, has ultimately been his undoing in a sport in which he could have double his tally of titles.
So as Alonso tops the timesheets in the pre-Le Mans test and now jets across the Atlantic for what could be his final Canadian Grand Prix – there is more excitement ahead of his Le Mans challenge in a fortnight’s time, which ultimately will cement his legacy outside of Formula One.