Abu Dhabi was Fernando Alonso’s final Formula 1 Grand Prix, for now at least, with the 2-time F1 World Champion celebrated for a glorious career across 17-seasons racing at the pinnacle of motorsport.
… even if his most recent results with McLaren have been disappointing, with 2018’s MCL33 on average the second slowest car on the grid.
But Alonso’s retirement from F1 will be anything but boring, with the path ahead a racer’s dream – with three more events on the World Endurance Championship, including a return to Le Mans…an event he won this year for Toyota with Kazuki Nakajima and Sébastien Buemi.
He’s also heading back to the Indy 500, Alonso’s wildcard entry a chance to secure the triple crown and match Graham Hill’s record.
And, in January, he’s confirmed to again do the Daytona 24 Hours, racing a Cadillac DPi for Wayne Taylor Racing alongside three others - including former F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi.
But there was no time to relax in Abu Dhabi after his final Grand Prix, with the Spaniard flying to Bahrain the next day for a car swap with seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson.
The pair meeting first to talk through the challenge…
…before Alonso got into the 2018 Hendricks Motorsports Chevrolet, which he said was like going back in time in terms of technology.
SOUNDBITE (English) FERNANDO ALONSO,
2-TIME F1 WORLD CHAMPION:
"It was definitely a lifetime experience. These cars, they feel very different compared the single seaters, the Formula 1. But a lot of fun out there in the race track. Very powerful cars. Sliding around, very little grip. It feels amazing to drive. I had a lot of fun also following Jimmie's [Johnson] progress. It was a wonderful day."
For Johnson, it was a whole new challenge – as he stepped into the 2013 V8-powered MP4-28… the American impressing, as he finished just over two tenths off Alonso’s representative time. Despite having never driven a single seater car on a road course.
SOUNDBITE (English) JIMMIE JOHNSON,
7-TIME NASCAR CUP SERIES CHAMPION:
“The acceleration was impressive but not too far off our cars when they're really hooked up off the turn. But the braking is just insane. You hit the brakes and you literally lose your vision at max g-forces, it's so high. And at the end of the braking zone, your vision comes back and your eyes focus and you can see the corner.”