By Alan Baldwin
SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS, Belgium (Reuters) - Red Bull have denied making an offer to McLaren's Fernando Alonso as they sought a replacement for Australian Daniel Ricciardo.
Double world champion Alonso, who has announced he is leaving Formula One at the end of the season, told reporters on Thursday at the Belgian Grand Prix that he had turned down a Red Bull approach for 2019.
Ricciardo is joining Renault next year, with Frenchman Pierre Gasly announced this week as his successor graduating from Red Bull-owned Toro Rosso.
"Just to be totally clear, there was no offer to Fernando Alonso for next year," Red Bull team principal Christian Horner said on Friday.
"We have offered Fernando a contract in the past, but that was back in 2007."
Horner said Alonso's manager Flavio Briatore, a former Renault team boss, had made an enquiry as had Formula One's commercial rights holders Liberty Media about possible interest in the Spaniard.
Horner suggested the Liberty approach was to be expected, with Alonso a major personality in the sport whose absence would be felt.
"There was just an enquiry as to whether we would consider Fernando, which you can understand from a promoter's point of view," he said.
"Fernando Alonso is a great asset to Formula One. If he could be in a competitive car, I'm sure they would prefer him to be staying than pursuing his Triple Crown. I wouldn’t expect them to do anything different," he said.
Horner said Red Bull's position had always been that they invested in youth, and the drivers in the Red Bull junior programme.
"We were always going to draw on the talent pool that we have."
Alonso is chasing the so-called 'Triple Crown of Motorsport', having won the Le Mans 24 Hours sportscar race with Toyota this year.
The 37-year-old, a Monaco Grand Prix winner, is expected to switch his attentions to the Indianapolis 500 as the only missing component of a triple previously achieved only by the late Briton Graham Hill.
(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Toby Davis)