Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz has revealed that the Milton Keynes-based squad made no effort to secure Fernando Alonso's services for 2008 because the former double world champion 'was free for a year only'.

The energy drinks company founder's admission only serves to fuel speculation that Alonso has already agreed terms to race for Ferrari in 2009, most likely in place of Felipe Massa. Following his very public fall-out with McLaren-Mercedes, the Spaniard has returned to Renault for the 2008 campaign, the team with which he claimed both his title successes in 2005 and 2006 - though Mateschitz claims RBR was his preferred choice.

Whilst Alonso has denied there is an 'escape clause' in his two-year contract should results not match up to his expectations - a scenario that has thus far irrefutably been the case - the 26-year-old has expressed increasing disquiet in recent weeks over the R28's poor performance and lack of pace.

"Alonso told a Spanish newspaper that Red Bull would be his favourite option," Austrian billionaire Mateschitz said in an interview with El Mundo. "His situation was complicated, though, because he was free for a year only.

"In such a short time we would not have been able to demonstrate our ability, and that would have meant a serious setback for us.

"I am one of those who thinks that Alonso is one of the best drivers, but if we could not deliver the car he needed, the decision would have been wrong.

"Imagine - a former champion suffering in one of our cars this year... Choosing to go with [Flavio] Briatore [and Renault] was the best move."