Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko says Nico Hülkenberg was a serious candidate for the team’s 2021 Formula 1 seat, despite team principal Christian Horner’s claims to the contrary.
Speaking after Friday’s announcement that Sergio Perez would replace Alex Albon at the energy drinks outfit next season, Horner said “there was no other” in response to a question over the candidacy of Hülkenberg and Sebastian Vettel.
According to Horner, while there was a “brief discussion” with Hülkenberg earlier in the season, talks “really accelerated over the last month” once the team decided to move on from Albon, with Perez the only driver they pursued.
“Hülkenberg was definitely a serious candidate,” he said. “We carefully analyzed the strengths and weaknesses of the three candidates Alexander Albon, Sergio Perez and Nico Hülkenberg.
“In the end, only one thing was decisive for Perez towards Hülkenberg: He was able to bring most of the knowledge about the Mercedes engine with him. Unfortunately, Nico Hülkenberg had too few appearances this season.”
Hülkenberg, who was dropped by Renault after the 2019 season, only made three appearances in 2020, filling in at Racing Point as a coronavirus substitute – twice for Perez and once for teammate Lance Stroll.
In contrast – and with the exception of those two absences – Perez enjoyed a full season and his best one to date, winning his first F1 race at the Sakhir Grand Prix and finishing fourth in the driver’s championship.
Indeed, Hülkenberg admitted in his own comments to F1-Insider he couldn’t fault Red Bull for giving Perez the seat.
“Sergio deserves the place,” he said. “I can’t change it and now I will continue to prepare for my own future. Keep me fit and be ready when I’m needed. This year you have seen what can happen.”