Mclaren driver Fernando Alonso of Spain steers his car during the second free practice at the Yas Marina racetrack in Abu Dhabi. Photo: Hassan Ammar/AP Photo

There is a paradox in the paddock. Tonight Formula One’s elite gather to raise a glass to a driver with two world titles to his name.

Further, Fernando Alonso merits inclusion in F1’s all-time top 10. Now 37, he was once his sport’s youngest champion and youngest double champion ever.

But for all Alonso’s 32 wins in 311 races, most people here for tomorrow’s Grand Prix will merely shrug.

Why? One reason is that the Spaniard has stayed on too long. He has won fewer points, 132, in four years at McLaren than Lewis Hamilton notched in the past seven races.

Worse, lack of recent success has turned him into a stuck record moaning about how the podium is a closed shop. His last top-three finish was at Ferrari in 2014.

McLaren’s milk float has left him podium-less for 84 races. But his comments have grated.

History may be even less generous than the muted response to his leaving F1.

Alonso is not saying he is retiring, keeping open the possibility of a return. Not a hope. Nobody wants him.

History will record Alonso as a tainted champion. He was at the centre of the 2007 Spygate scandal with McLaren, his email inbox containing Ferrari information that his team had purloined.

He then fell out with McLaren boss Ron Dennis and rookie Lewis Hamilton.

He returned to Renault after one season, his biggest tactical mistake.

A calmer driver may have won the title in 2007 and 2008 but after joining Ferrari he came close to championships in 2010 and 2012 before it all went sour.

A super racer, Alonso won his titles in 2005 and 2006 but that was it, his title account closed aged 25.

His biggest black mark remains his 2008 win in Singapore, achieved when Renault team-mate Nelson Piquet was told to help by crashing deliberately.

Daily Mail