Red Bull Racing revealed that Nico Hulkenberg could both constitute an option for the constitution of its 2021 line-up.
Red Bull’s Christian Horner has continually backed Alex Albon amid a difficult season and insisted that his position alongside Max Verstappen at the team is safe.
Albon had a particularly tough race in Germany that included an unscheduled early stop after he flatspotted his tyres on the first lap, and a clumsy collision with AlphaTauri’s Daniil Kvyat that saw him pick up a penalty.
At the Russian Grand Prix, while stressing it is Red Bull’s intention to keep Albon, Horner indicated the team is “aware” of out-of-contract alternatives like Hulkenberg and Perez.
Speculation regarding Albon has refused to go away, and there were some intriguing comments made by Red Bull advisor Helmut Marko after the Eifel Grand Prix.
Speaking to German channel Sport1, Marko revealed that Red Bull had contacted Hulkenberg as a precaution on Friday about the possibility of driving for the team after Albon returned an inconclusive COVID test, as well as discussing the team’s options for 2021.
“We can call the names that are available on the market,” Marko said. “This is Hulkenberg and this is Perez. The question is how far away they would be from Max?
“We have comparisons with [Daniel] Ricciardo and we can draw conclusions about where the drivers stand. I don’t think that anyone would get closer than three tenths.
“On good days, Albon is also able to create this proximity to Max. Albon is young, but we are aware that if he can’t stand the pressure, we can’t afford to be standing on one leg when it comes to the world championship. That is the situation.
“It is actually impossible for a world championship if you only have one car in the action. But we are not there yet. The performance [of Albon] at the Nurburgring was satisfactory. That’s just the situation.”
Marko confirmed Red Bull would be forced to look outside of its programme if it decided to make any changes to its driver line-up for 2021.
“Up to now we have always recruited our drivers from our own junior squad. But there’s nobody here at the moment,” he added.
“We do have a Japanese who is very fast, but this would be his first year. And to put him in a top team like Red Bull Racing for the first year would risk burning him out.
“We are not planning to do that, so we would have to go the way most other teams do, to rely on proven drivers.
“We are actually already clear about three positions. We want to make a decision about the fourth at the latest in Istanbul.”
Hulkenberg himself was relaxed when asked about his prospects for 2021, replying: “[There’s] no rush. I’m looking around, you know? Good things take time.”
With his brief performances this year, Hulkenberg has shown more than enough to suggest he is deserving of a place on the grid in 2021. He would be an astute hire for any of the teams in the market for a new driver.
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F1 2020 NEXT RACE
|Portugal ||25 Oct|
|10h00 - 11h30||Free practice 1|
|14h00 - 15h30||Free practice 2|
|11h00 - 12h00||Free practice 3|
|14h00 - 15h00||Qualification|
|14h10 - 16h10||Race|