PHOTOGRAPHERS GOING ABOUT THEIR BUSINESS: Fernando Alonso walks down the pits lane followed by photographers. Image: AP / Andy Wong
SHANGHAI, China - Two-times champion Fernando Alonso, now 33, says he expects to end his Formula 1 career with McLaren, confirming that the team he joined from Ferrari at the end of 2014 would likely be his last.
Alonso made his debut as a 19-year-old with Minardi in 2001. Since then he's won 32 of 236; 2015 is 14th in the sport, excluding the year he spent on the sidelines as a test driver for Renault.
"I think after 15 or 16 or 17 years in Formula 1, whatever it will be, it's enough," Alonso told reporters at the Shanghai International Circuit ahead of the 2015 Chinese GP on Sunday (April 12).
"I will close the loop... I will close part of my life," he said, addressing a question about whether he would remain in the sport in some capacity once a driving career that brought him back-to-back titles from 2005 ended.
"I started with a McLaren when I was three years old," he joked of a replica car bought for him by his father. "I will finish with a McLaren but the real one in F1 and that will be one-third of my life with a great experience, with great memories, with great friendships."
Alonso is widely regarded as the best driver of his generation but has often found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time. He joined McLaren at the start of 2015 from Ferrari, returning to a team he'd left after a single acrimonious season in 2007.
He then spent five frustrating seasons with Ferrari during which time he came close - but failed - to add to his title tally.
The timing of his move to McLaren could also be questioned as the team is at the start of a new engine partnership with Honda, which has struggled to come to terms with the sport's turbo-hybrid rules.
The combination that once dominated Formula 1 is now a regular fixture near the back of the field while Ferrari has returned to winning ways with Alonso's replacement Sebastian Vettel taking the 2015 Malaysian GP in March.
While he had enjoyed his time at Ferrari, Alonso said, he did not regret his move and felt inspired by the challenge of helping the eight-times Constructors' champion return to the front of the pack.
"Five fantastic years... twice we've been very close to winning the championship and I only have good memories and good feelings," Alonso said of his time at Ferrari. "It was enough. To keep doing lap after lap, year after year, that was not my motivation any more.
"It's challenging but I'm looking forward, starting in a new team, with a new project. This makes me happy. I was not happy with my mind and my soul."
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