Nico Hülkenberg will no longer be competing in Formula 1 in the 2020 season. The German could not keep his place with Renault losing out to Esteban Ocon.
In his hope to find a cockpit afterwards, Hülkenberg was also in contact with Red Bull. There were speculations in media reports about several phone calls from the German to Helmut Marko.
“The idea came from Hülkenberg,” reveals Marko in an exclusive video interview on the 2019 review.
After it was clear that Esteban Ocon would follow him at Renault, the Le Mans winner contacted Red Bull. Already around the Canadian Grand Prix, rumours of this had been circulating in the paddock.
At that time, Hülkenberg rejected speculation that these were “fake news”. Marko agreed with him and dismissed the rumours as “absolute nonsense”.
But since Pierre Gasly did not perform as expected, the top team seemed to be looking for alternatives after all.
During the summer break, rookie Alexander Albon was brought into the top team and Gasly was demoted to Toro Rosso. “At that point, we didn’t know how Albon would make his move. We left that open,” admits Marko with hindsight that the situation was uncertain at mid-season.
Throughout August there had been contact between Hülkenberg and Red Bull.
So would he have had a shot at Red Bull after all? “With Albon’s performance, it was then clear that there was no room for Hülkenberg in our team,” Marko says.
Already in September, the door seemed to close for the German at the Bulls. The team’s interest in the veteran was described as “manageable”.
Hülkenberg himself still had to admit at the end of September: he would “not say no” to Red Bull. But at that point it already seemed clear that his Formula 1 career was coming to an end.
Because Red Bull remained true to the principle of promoting young talent and eventually extended Albon’s contract.
“And that would have been a breach. So far we’ve only ever taken our own drivers out of the junior team and of course it gives the juniors a great deal of security when they know they’re with us. So the chances of getting into Formula 1 are huge,” Marko defends his junior programme.
Afterwards: “I don’t want to say that we wouldn’t take anyone from the outside, but then they have to be much better.
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