Alonso 'turned down Red Bull offer to return' - report

Race winner Fernando Alonso (ESP) #08 Toyota Gazoo Racing Toyota TS050 Hybrid, celebrates on the podium.

Reports in the European media say that two-time world champion Fernando Alonso turned down a recent approach from Red Bull Racing to return to Formula 1 in 2019.

Spanish newspaper Mundo Deportivo says that the team offered Alonso the chance to replace Pierre Gasly for the second half of the season.

There had been growing concerns at Red Bull about Gasly's performance, with a lack of consistency from the young French driver costing the squad dearly in the constructors championship.

The team has since announced this week that Alexander Albon would take over the seat with immediate effect at Spa-Francorchamps at the end of the month, with Gasly returning to his old berth at Toro Rosso in exchange.

But if the reports from Spain are confirmed then it appears that this wasn't the team's Plan A. Instead, the team supposedly initially attempted to hire Alonso, now that his FIA World Endurance Championship campaign has concluded with a second Le Mans triumph.

"Red Bull contacted Alonso in Silverstone to offer him the place of Pierre Gasly," the newspaper asserted this week, suggesting that despite public denials the team had been actively seeking to replace Gasly ever since the Austrian Grand Prix during which he was lapped by his team mate.

"It was not Fernando who made the offer to Red Bull, it was the team led by Christian Horner who was interested in the approach," the report continued. "But the answer to the approach was none other than a resounding 'no'."

If it had come off, the signing would certainly have captured headlines around the world for the energy drinks company. Pairing Alonso with the sport's current rising superstar Max Verstappen would have been the talk of the final nine races of 2019.

Alonso retired from F1 at the end of 2018 following a dispiriting spell at McLaren. As well as joining Toyota in WEC, Alonso also hoped to become only the second driver in history to complete the unofficial Triple Crown of Motorsport by winning the Indianapolis 500 in May.

Fernando Alonso, McLaren Racing. 19.05.2019.

Instead, a botched qualifying campaign meant he missed this year's 33-car starting grid at Indy. Alonso subsequently appeared to part ways with McLaren - for the time being at least - leaving him a free agent and apparently of renewed interest to Red Bull when the squad cast around for replacement drivers for Gasly in July.

However the idea of being a mid-season stand-in clearly didn't appeal to Alonso, who would inevitably have faced stiff competition from an in-form Max Verstappen.

ā€œI have a clear idea of what I'm going to do," Alonso said recently after being linked with talks to find a way back into F1 with Ferrari, which he denied.

"I don't leave doors open, I'm not waiting or looking for anyone to call me. I have always chosen where and when I wanted to race, because I move based on what makes me happy."

Alonso has previously revealed that he had been approached by Red Bull to race for them on multiple occasions, as recently as two overtures in 2018 which he also turned down. The team has denied making any such moves and said that it had been Alonso who made the initial approach.

Now it seems that the 38-year-old is looking for another new challenge to tackle, with the legendary Dakar rally appearing to be top of the Spanish driver's to-do list.

"If something scares you, but it makes you happy, then you must do it. That is the essence of adventure, and life is a very important adventure," he is quoted as saying.

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