Nico Hulkenberg has revealed he has previously spoken with Helmut Marko about a possible Red Bull drive but that ultimately came to nothing.
Having burned through Alex Albon and Pierre Gasly, Red Bull were on the lookout for a new driver to slot in beside Max Verstappen as the team hoped to topple the dominant Mercedes.
In the end, they settled on Sergio Perez but that could have been different had another F1 veteran been given the chance.
Nico Hulkenberg: There have been some conversations
Hulkenberg had just spent a season as reserve driver for Racing Point, actually filling in on three occasions when both Perez and Lance Stroll tested positive for COVID.
But Red Bull, perhaps inspired by Perez’s Sakhir heroics, opted for the Mexican.
“There have been some conversations with Helmut,” Hulkenberg told the Dutch newspaper AD. “But I never felt that it was really getting serious myself.”
Had Hulkenberg secured the Red Bull seat then it would have offered him his best chance yet to get rid of an unwanted record of being the most experienced driver yet to finish on the podium.
Ahead of the Hungarian Grand Prix, Hulkenberg has raced 191 times without finishing in the top three.
One man who does not have that problem is Max Verstappen who has yet to finish outside the top three so far in 2023.
Hulkenberg was asked to sum up the current championship leader and said “an absolute killer.”
“How do I see Max? As an absolute killer,” he said. “He’s just so incredibly good.
“So much natural talent, but he is also a very nice and charming person. A no-nonsense guy. He just tells you how it is, [and] is honest with you. And I can appreciate that.”
Perez’s seat though remains under question with a continued run of bad performances. Daniel Ricciardo’s return to AlphaTauri will not have put the Mexican’s mind at rest and Ralf Schumacher believes Ricciardo is one of two possible candidates for the Red Bull seat.
“Perez is currently showing that a dominant car is not everything, and yet I strongly believe that he will also be in the Red Bull next year,” Schumacher wrote in a column for Sky Deutschland.
“If Alex Albon were free – which he isn’t – or if Ricciardo comes into action now and can show his class, it could perhaps be tight.
“But he has a contract and therefore I can almost not imagine a separation. But almost nothing is impossible in Formula 1.”