Red Bull have revealed that talks with Nico Hulkenberg over a race seat for 2021 never got beyond “a brief discussion”.
The Mexican was available after being dropped by Racing Point in favour of Sebastian Vettel and so Red Bull had plenty of opportunity to weigh up their options.
Hulkenberg was also reported to be in the mix for a full-time return to the grid having impressed as a Racing Point substitute when Perez and Lance Stroll were sidelined by illness – but Red Bull team principal Christian Horner denied he was ever a strong contender.
Asked by Autosport if anyone else had been seriously considered – also amid rumours earlier this year that Sebastian Vettel could return to Red Bull – Horner said: “No. There was no other.
“There was a brief discussion with Nico Hulkenberg. But it’s really accelerated over the last month, I would say.
“It’s remarkable and I mean circumstances are a little crazy, aren’t they?
“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.”
Estoy feliz de compartir esto con todos ustedes, en 2021 correremos con Red Bull Racing.
— Sergio Pérez (@SChecoPerez) December 18, 2020
While the signing of Perez represents a departure by Red Bull from their policy of promoting drivers from their development program, Horner said a pragmatic choice was necessary with none of the youngsters ready yet to follow Pierre Gasly and Albon by being pitched in against Verstappen.
“There was no candidate on the junior program that was suitable,” said Horner. “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 the necessary amount of experience, brings a wealth of knowledge to the team as well and I think will be a good team-mate for Max next year.”