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F1: Red Bull’s Horner denies making offer to Fernando Alonso

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SPA-FRANCORCHAMPS, Belgium (AP) — Red Bull team principal Christian Horner denies his team tried to sign Fernando Alonso as a replacement for Daniel Ricciardo.

Ricciardo stunned F1 this month when, instead of signing an expected new deal with Red Bull, he announced he was joining Renault from 2019.

F1 was further shaken in mid-August with the news Alonso is retiring from F1 at the end of the season to pursue other racing interests.

In comments made to British Broadcaster Sky, Alonso said he was approached by Red Bull sometime in August and also earlier in the season.

Horner responded at a news conference at the Belgian Grand Prix on Friday.

“Just to be totally clear, there was no offer to Fernando Alonso for next year,” Horner said. “Fernando is a fantastic driver (but) he’s obviously chosen his path.”

Horner said he was asked, however, by F1 owners Liberty Media to see if Red Bull might consider taking the 37-year-old Alonso, a two-time world champion and a popular driver with fans.

“There was just an inquiry as to whether we would consider Fernando, which you can understand from a promoter’s point of view,” Horner said. “If he could be in a competitive car I’m sure they would prefer him staying. I wouldn’t expect them to do anything different.”

Alonso said this month that Liberty had tried to make him change his mind about leaving F1 amid speculation McLaren will enter IndyCar with Alonso as one of its drivers. The Spanish driver raced in the Indianapolis 500 last year and was in position to win until his engine failed.

He also ran the Rolex 24 at Daytona as a warm-up for the 24 Hours of Le Mans, where Alonso was part of the winning team.

Red Bull did try to sign Alonso in 2007.

But Horner suggested it would now be difficult to work with Alonso, who won his two F1 titles with Renault in 2005 and 2006 and was runner-up three times with Ferrari before joining McLaren in 2015.

“He’s tended to cause a bit of chaos wherever he’s gone.” Horner said in separate comments made to F1’s official podcast. “I’m not sure it would be the healthiest thing for the team for Fernando to join.”

That followed comments this week from Red Bull’s motorsport adviser Helmut Marko, who said Alonso made “very tedious” demands when they negotiated with him 11 years ago.

“If you look at his history, in McLaren and Ferrari, it was always a one-man show,” Marko told Austrian broadcaster Servus TV. “That doesn’t fit with us.”

Although Alonso is pursuing wider racing interests, it is not necessarily the end of his F1 career.

“Life has also taught me in the past how things may change,” he said. “I don’t have the crystal ball to know what is going to happen in the future. For me it’s bye-bye, but who knows in the future?”

Meanwhile, Horner says he does not hold a grudge against Ricciardo for leaving, even though the Australian was expected to stay.

“He’s been a pleasure to have in the team,” Horner said. “He’s a big character. We’ve given him a platform to express that and we wish him well.”

But Red Bull teammate Max Verstappen questioned Ricciardo’s decision to choose Renault, which has not secured a podium since returning to F1 in 2016.

“If it then is a change of scenery, I’m not sure if it’s the best scenery to go to,” Verstappen said.

Zach Veach splits with Andretti Autosport for rest of IndyCar season

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Zach Veach will be leaving his Andretti Autosport ride with three races remaining in the season, choosing to explore options after the decision was made he wouldn’t return for 2021.

In a Wednesday release, Andretti Autosport said a replacement driver for the No. 26 Dallara-Honda would be named in the coming days. The NTT IndyCar Series will race Oct. 2-3 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and then conclude the season Oct. 25 on the streets of St. Petersburg, Florida.

Veach was ranked 11th in the points standings through 11 races of his third season with Andretti. Since a fourth in the June 6 season opener at Texas Motor Speedway, he hadn’t finished higher than 14th.

“The decision was made that I will not be returning in 2021 with Andretti Autosport in the No. 26 Gainbridge car,” Veach said in the Andretti release. “This, along with knowing that limited testing exists for teams due to COVID, have led me to the decision to step out of the car for the remainder of the 2020 IndyCar season. I am doing this to allow the team to have time with other drivers as they prepare for 2021, and so that I can also explore my own 2021 options.

“This is the hardest decision I have ever made, but to me, racing is about family, and it is my belief that you take care of your family. Andretti Autosport is my family and I feel this is what is best to help us all reach the next step. I will forever be grateful to Michael and the team for all of their support over the years. I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for a relationship that started many years ago with Road to Indy. I will also be forever grateful to Dan Towriss for his friendship and for the opportunity he and Gainbridge have given me.

“My love for this sport and the people involved is unmeasurable, and I look forward to continuing to be amongst the racing world and fans in 2021.”

Said team owner Michael Andretti: “We first welcomed Zach to the Andretti team back in his USF2000 days and have enjoyed watching him grow and evolve as a racer, and a person. His decision to allow us to use the last few races to explore our 2021 options shows the measure of his character.

“Zach has always placed team and family first, and we’re very happy to have had him as part of ours for so many years. We wish him the best in whatever 2021 may bring and will always consider him a friend.”

Andretti fields five full-time cars for Veach, Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Marco Andretti and Colton Herta.

It also has fielded James Hinchcliffe in three races this season.