Red Bull never seriously considered Sebastian Vettel or Nico Hulkenberg to drive for the team in the 2021 Formula 1 season, says team boss Christian Horner.
In need of a replacement given the ongoing struggles of Alexander Albon, the energy drinks outfit announced on Friday that Sergio Perez would partner Max Verstappen for next season.
And yet while Vettel and Hulkenberg were both available for negotiations at certain points in the season, Horner said the Mexican was the only one his team seriously pursued.
“No. There was no other,” he said in response to a question over his team’s interest in other drivers. “There was a brief discussion with Nico Hulkenberg. But it’s really accelerated over the last month, I would say.”
Indeed from Horner’s perspective, it was perfect timing that Perez — enjoying an ascendant season despite his imminent departure from Racing Point — was still available at the same time Red Bull was losing confidence in Albon.
“It’s remarkable and, I mean, circumstances are a little crazy, aren’t they?” he said. “Nico Hulkenberg is another capable driver that should really have a seat in F1.
“But it was our good fortune that he [Perez] didn’t have a seat and that allowed us the time, without him having any other options that he could pursue as a race seat, to fulfil the season with Alex before making a decision.”
At the same time, Horner suggested the timing was not so fortunate for those in Red Bull’s vaunted junior programme, with no prospects ready to step up.
“There was no candidate on the junior program that was suitable,” he said. “So we decided to go outside of the program for the first time since 2007.
“It was impossible to ignore Sergio’s performance this year. I think he’s driven a great campaign. He’s been truly impressive, particularly in the second half of the season, and he’s earned the seat.
“We want to field the strongest team we can to take the fight to Mercedes, and you’ve got to do that with both cars. I think Sergio has got the necessary amount of experience, brings a wealth of knowledge to the team as well, and I think will be a good teammate for Max next year.”