Over the course of 2019, the rumour mill seemed particularly interested in Renault driver Nico Hulkenberg. Of course, a number of them were triggered by Hulkenberg himself and revolved around a potential move to Red Bull.
The German driver revealed that he had talks with Red Bull Racing in order to partner Max Verstappen for the coming season. Further lending credibility to the rumour was Red Bull advisor, Helmut Marko. Though he admitted that Hulkenberg himself initiated the talks.
Initially, both parties tried to downplay the rumours, with Hulkenberg dubbing it ‘fake news’ and Marko agreeing with him. However, the denials soon waned and it wasn’t long before Hulkenberg and Marko confirming that the talks did take place.
Speaking to Motorsport-Total, Marko said, “The initiative came from Hülkenberg.”
He affirmed that at the time, the debate was still on about who would take the second Red Bull seat. Alexander Albon was still an unknown entity at the time, so Red Bull were keeping their options open.
However, once Albon proved his mettle, it was clear that it was curtains for poor old Nico Hulkenberg’s chances at Red Bull. The Austrian admitted that the outfit were prioritising their junior program and their academy above all else.
Marko stated that promoting drivers out of the Red Bull junior program gives them a sense of security. So, their chances of reaching Formula 1 are higher than usual. He did not dismiss anyone outside the programme as never standing a chance. However, he felt that an in-house choice was the safer bet.
In the end, Hulkenberg had to step away from Formula 1 after Renault ousted him in favour of Esteban Ocon. Now, the German driver is left to hunt for potential opportunities and try and grab a seat for 2021.