Fernando Alonso’s decision to leave Formula 1 at the end of the season was met with sadness among most fans of the sport.
The Spaniard has enjoyed a brilliant 18-year career driving for Minardi, Renault, McLaren and Ferrari, winning two world championships in the process.
He won the 2005 and 2006 titles during his first spell with the French team during which he partnered Jarno Trulli, Giancarlo Fisichella and Jacques Villeneuve among others.
Alonso finished second in the drivers’ standings on three occasions over the following decade, losing out to Sebastian Vettel by four points in 2010 and three in 2012.
Pipped by some truly agonising margins, he could very well have been level with Lewis Hamilton on five championships today.
However, it’s fair to describe the latter part of Alonso’s time in F1 as considerably less successful.
Currently ranked tenth, the 37-year-old hasn’t won a race or even placed on the podium since leaving Ferrari for McLaren amid unpleasant circumstances three years ago.
The situation has led critics to believe he’s quitting the sport because he’s no longer at the top - an accusation Alonso is eager to write off.
"I think this is a mistake a lot of people are taking from this decision," Alonso told ESPN.
"I explained it very clearly in my statement: I am stopping Formula One because there are other bigger challenges outside Formula One than the ones I can see here.
"It's not because I am not winning here, I could sign for a competitive team next year, maybe not the top two, but maybe the third one. But I say no because I arrived in F1 17 years ago and I have won two world championships.”
ALONSO'S STILL GOT IT
It’s difficult to doubt what Alonso could still achieve in a better car.
Behind the wheel of an inconsistently competitive McLaren, he clocked the fastest laps at Italy and Hungary during 2016 and 2017 respectively.
But even so, the veteran remains at ease with his choice.
"I have won more races than what I dreamed of when I came here and this part of my career is done -- it was a success. I have ticked the box. I need to go for another tick and find another box to fill. That's the only reason.
"If I had only done five or six seasons in F1 and I still had a lot energy, I would stay despite the results -- better or worse -- but after 17 years and after achieving everything here, I think it's the right moment.”
Alonso's F1 swansong will be at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix this weekend.