Fernando Alonso
Fernando Alonso is still to decide his future with his contract with McLaren coming to an end in November. In this picture, Alonso attends the German Formula One Grand Prix at the Hockenheim racing circuit in Hockenheim, southern Germany, July 22, 2018. ANDREJ ISAKOVIC/AFP/Getty Images

Christian Horner played down speculation about Fernando Alonso joining Red Bull as a replacement for Daniel Ricciardo, who shocked the Austrian team when he decided to turn down an extension and join Renault in 2019.

The Australian had agreed terms with Red Bull over an extension beyond 2018, but had a sudden change of heart and decided to join the French manufacturers on a two-year deal.

Horner admitted recently that he was shocked when Ricciardo called to inform him of his decision and revealed that he initially thought the Australian was just winding him up before heading into the summer break. However, it soon became clear it was not a ruse and they were going to lose one of the best drivers on the grid to a rival team.

The Red Bull team principal accepted that while Ricciardo’s move comes as a shock, it is understandable if the Australian racer did not want to play a support role to Max Verstappen — Red Bull’s de facto number one driver — and wanted a team leader role for himself at Renault.

The Austrian team will now have to look for a replacement and there have been a number of drivers linked with the vacant seat at Red Bull. Pierre Gasly, currently driving for the Red Bull junior team — Toro Rosso — is the favorite, while Carlos Sainz, another contracted to Red Bull has also been touted as a possible alternative.

Apart from the two young drivers, a leftfield choice has been mooted in the form of Fernando Alonso. The double world champion is a proven winner and has made it no secret that he is keen to drive a race-winning car before he calls time on his career.

Red Bull are one of the top three teams alongside Mercedes and Ferrari and Alonso could consider moving from McLaren if offered a drive. However, Horner ruled out the possibility of making a move for the veteran racer after admitting that he “tends to cause a bit of chaos” at every team he joins.

And the Red Bull team principal is not too far from the truth as Alonso does carry a reputation of disrupting the harmony within a team. He endured a difficult relationship with Lewis Hamilton and Ron Dennis during his first with McLaren in 2007, and then endured a fractious relationship with Honda for three seasons after rejoining McLaren in 2015.

“I have got huge respect for Fernando. He’s a great driver, a fantastic driver," Horner said speaking on a podcast on the official F1 site. “But I think it’s very difficult to see… he tends to cause a bit of chaos wherever he’s gone. I’m not sure it would be the healthiest thing for the team for Fernando to join the team.”

Horner indicated that Red Bull will stick to tradition and look to promote from within the junior program like they have done in previous years, but refused to give a clear indication of whether it will be Gasly or Sainz occupying the seat alongside Verstappen in 2019.

“Our preference would be to continue to invest in youth than take a driver who’s obviously close to the end of his career,” he explained. “We are fortunate that we’ve got several drivers under contract that are great talents. So I think we are going to sit back and just look and evaluate what the situation is."

“It’s an incredibly attractive car to be driving and I don’t think we are going to be short of requests and offers,” he said.