McLaren to run special Alonso paint scheme in Abu Dhabi

ABU DHABI -- McLaren will mark Fernando Alonso's final race in Formula One by running a special colour scheme in his honour.

The Abu Dhabi Grand Prix will be Alonso's 314th and final race weekend before he leaves to pursue opportunities in other series. Although he has not completely ruled out a return to F1, his immediate future consists of completing the World Endurance Championship 2018-19 'super-season' with Toyota and contesting his second Indy 500 with McLaren next May.

McLaren has released images of the livery it will run, with its usual papaya orange mixed with the distinctive blue, red and yellow pattern Alonso has worn on his race helmet this season. The initials 'FA' is marked on the cockpit.

Alonso thanked the team for the tribute in a tweet ahead of his swansong event.

McLaren CEO Zak Brown said: "We're incredibly pleased and proud to be able to race a special one-off livery for Fernando in Abu Dhabi this weekend. We want his last grand prix to feel special in every way, and this was just one of the ways we could reflect that.

"We worked closely and collaboratively with Fernando, and then with the FIA and Formula One to make the change for this one race, and they were all hugely supportive of the move. Hopefully, this will give Fernando's fans a little something extra to look forward to at what is bound to be an especially emotional weekend."

McLaren was granted special dispensation from the FIA for the change. Unlike other racing series like IndyCar or NASCAR, it's incredibly rare for F1 teams to deviate for a single race from their set livery at any point during a season. The last time McLaren did so was at the 1986 Portuguese Grand Prix, when Keke Rosberg drove a yellow and white car instead of the famous red and white paint job of the Malboro sponsorship.

Alonso's teammate Stoffel Vandoorne is also gearing up for his final race for McLaren before his switch to Formula E, which starts a brand new season in December with a race in Saudi Arabia. Vandoorne and Alonso will be replaced in 2019 by McLaren junior Lando Norris and Carlos Sainz, who will make the switch from Renault over the winter.