Nico Hülkenberg was considered for a drive with Red Bull at the Formula 1 Eifel Grand Prix after Alexander Albon returned an inconclusive COVID-19 test, Helmut Marko has revealed.
Set to commentate for German television this weekend, Hülkenberg was going to be at the Nürburgring anyway before being called-up on Saturday to replace the ill Lance Stroll at Racing Point.
However Red Bull advisor Marko says the German could have been wearing blue instead of pink over the weekend had things turned out slightly differently.
“We were already in conversation with Hulkenberg on Friday,” Marko told Sport1 on Sunday evening. “Albon had an uncertain, undefined test result. It could have turned out to be positive. I called Hulkenberg immediately after landing.”
In the end Albon was obviously cleared to drive, although the Thai endured a tough race that saw him destroy two sets of tyres with lock-ups and take out the front wing of AlphaTauri’s Daniil Kvyat prior to his retirement due to a punctured radiator.
Nevertheless Marko insists they are sticking by their man, although he acknowledged that his driver lineups for both Red Bull teams are not confirmed for next year, with Hülkenberg and Sergio Perez the two notable free agents on the market.
“If Albon keeps his pace up, he can stay but looking outside at available drivers, we have only Hulkenberg or Perez,” he said.
“We can compare those with what [Daniel] Ricciardo is doing or did but on a good day, Albon can do that as well. But I believe that nobody will get closer to Verstappen than three tenths.
“Although Albon is still young, if he can’t deliver under pressure, Red Bull can’t afford to take on the championship with just one car. Should Albon not perform, we normally look at our juniors and although we have a fast Japanese driver [in Yuki Tsunoda], we can’t put him in Red Bull for his first year.
“AlphaTauri is the stepping stone, so that’s why, like other teams have done, we would have to look outside our squad. But it is just theory at this point as Albon is still doing what is asked of him so we don’t give up on him yet.”