In a statement made by Toyota Gazoo Racing on Wednesday morning, it has been confirmed that Fernando Alonso will not continue with the Japanese team or the FIA World Endurance Championship for a second season.
Alonso joined the WEC grid this time last year, making his series debut at the 2018 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps, which he went on to win with team mates Sebastien Buemi and Kazuki Nakajima. Since then, the Spaniard has joined his team mates to much further success in the endurance championship, claiming a 24 Hours of Le Mans victory and currently leading the championship standings.
Pursuing new motorsport challenges, Alonso will not take part in the WEC next year, which leads us to believe here at The Checkered Flag that a full time IndyCar seat may be in line for the two-time Formula One World Champion for 2020.
If this is the case and the Spaniard did manage to win the Indianapolis 500 and the IndyCar championship (as well as securing the World Endurance Championship he is on course to take in June), he would become the first driver of all time to claim the Triple Crown and win all three championships that host a Triple Crown race.
“Winning Le Mans is one of the highlights of my career as part of my Triple Crown challenge and I will always remember that victory which we achieved together as a team last year.” Alonso commented. “Now is a good time to take on new challenges and there are many interesting opportunities to explore within Toyota Gazoo Racing.
“I wish Brendon all the best for next season and I would like to thank all the team members for the big effort they continue to make to achieve success in WEC.”
Brendon Hartley will return to the WEC paddock after a season out, taking Alonso’s seat. It has not yet been confirmed what the car line ups will be, but aside from the Alonso/Hartley switch it appears Toyota will be retaining their current five drivers for next season.
“I know how professional and motivated this team is following my years competing against them in WEC, so I am fired up and am very happy to be joining them.” Hartley said ahead of his return to the World Endurance paddock. “I believe I am returning to WEC an even stronger driver following my experience in Formula One and I look forward to getting on track and building a strong relationship with my new team.
“I can’t wait to get behind the wheel of the TS050 Hybrid; the first tests can’t come soon enough.”
On the announcement, Hisatake Murata, Toyota Gazoo Racing Team President, said: “For many years we have respected him [Hartley] as a tough competitor but now I am excited to have him as a Toyota colleague. He is a team player so I expect him to fit in very quickly and become a valuable part of our team.
“On the other hand, I am sad to say goodbye to Fernando and would like to thank him a lot for his contribution to this fantastic season during which he has written his name in TOYOTA’s motorsport history.”
Alonso will complete the WEC Superseason with Toyota, racing at this weekend’s 6 Hours of Spa-Francorchamps and the finale at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June. Hartley will make his first public appearance in Toyota at the Le Mans test on the 2nd June.