So, Fernando Alonso is retiring from Formula One. He’s cutting ties, moving on to bigger and better things like a full season of the World Endurance Championship and the pursuit of an Indy 500 win! Except—wait. He’s not?
As it turns out, Alonso isn’t quite as done with F1 it was previously thought! According to a press release by McLaren, he’ll be back. Not for a full season of racing, but as a McLaren ambassador.
Normally, “ambassador” is a term that gets connected to big name brands like Mercedes. Nico Rosberg retired into the role of Mercedes brand ambassador, becoming something of a poster boy for both their racing program and their luxury cars. You’re a successful face to pair to a successful name in the hope that people buy the brand’s products.
But that’s not the case with Fernando. He’s actually staying exclusively in the racing ranks, but instead of competing, he’s... advising and testing. Fernando Alonso has become a test driver for McLaren. He’s not staying connected to McLaren to, like, wear nice suits and market the Spider. No. He’s testing!
As Alonso humbly told Motorsport.com:
At the moment, as I said last year, I feel at the peak of my career. So probably being at home is a waste of time and possibilities for everyone.
There’s some logic in keeping an expert available with a team composed of two entirely new drivers. It enables continuity and a veteran understanding of what makes the car good, how it’s better or worse than last year, and an informed opinion of what changes could be made to keep the car. It makes sense, and it’s a smart move for a team that’s been struggling.
But at the same time, it’s pretty damn hilarious that Alonso can’t just quit F1, and that McLaren had to find a way to make his role as a test driver out to be something more elite. Here’s to you, Fernando: you know how to keep the racing world on their toes.