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Sunday 25 November at 07:35
2019 'a sabbatical' for Alonso - Briatore
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Sunday 25 November at 07:35 : Nov.25 (GMM) Fernando Alonso says he is leaving the F1 paddock with his head held high.

The Spaniard, who is racing elsewhere in 2019, completed an impressive clean sweep of qualifying triumphs over his McLaren teammate Stoffel Vandoorne this year.

"I am happy with my perfect year in terms of qualifying," he said in Abu Dhabi. "It was 21-0 with the same car which I don't think anybody has done before.

"I am happy at least with that good taste," he added.

It has been an emotional and difficult weekend for Alonso, full of tributes as the paddock says farewell.

"I'm more shy than everyone thinks and I would like to be invisible until Monday," Alonso smiled to Movistar. "But I still have to do a lot more talking."

Flavio Briatore, in Abu Dhabi to watch his long-time protege race in F1 for the last time for now, insisted that 2019 will be a "sabbatical" only.

"Ferrari would have won the title with Fernando this year, without a doubt," the Italian said.

"The difference for them this year was the drivers. With Fernando, if he has a car to be third, he is third. If he has a car to win, he wins. And many times he has been higher than the car," Briatore insisted.

"I think for the moment Fernando takes a sabbatical. We will see what happens. He has had four genuinely frustrating years with a ridiculous performance by McLaren," he added.

Former F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone, also in Abu Dhabi, agreed with Briatore that Abu Dhabi may not have been the last blast for Alonso.

"I have the feeling he will come back, because F1 still needs him," the 88-year-old told El Mundo.

"I don't care what the team is, although I doubt he can go back to Ferrari or will go back with McLaren," Ecclestone added.

"I know that if he had a winning car, he would never have left. He may have made wrong decisions when choosing his team, but that doesn't mean it wasn't sad to see him suffer in recent years."

However, Alonso himself hit back at the claim that bad decisions cost him his F1 career.

"Max Verstappen is a great talent but has zero title," he told RTBF. "Daniel Ricciardo, zero title, Vettel with Ferrari, zero title. Nico Hulkenberg, zero podium.

"But nobody says they made bad career choices."
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