Red Bull team principal Christian Horner has revealed that he spoke with Sir Lewis Hamilton about joining the team during their period of impenetrable dominance between 2010 and 2013, but concedes that the move would have made little sense.
After winning the championship in 2008 with McLaren, Hamilton would claim 12 more until the end of the 2012 season, failing to make a championship materialise as Red Bull emerged.
Sebastian Vettel claimed four world titles on the bounce during that time alongside Mark Webber and, although Horner considered employing the 37-year-old to replace the Australian, he affirms that having two bona fide word champions at the team might have been detrimental.
“Lewis and I have had a couple of conversations over the years,” he told the Daily Mail.
“From 2010 to 2013, he was very keen to come and drive for Red Bull. We had Sebastian at that time and to have had two alpha drivers wouldn’t have made sense.”
The Woking side took seven wins between Hamilton and teammate Jenson Button in 2012 and appeared the fastest team after the opening three rounds of the year after which they led the Constructors’ Standings.
Horner was acutely aware that the now seven-time world champion was a threat, and as a result he tried to convince the late Niki Lauda to take him on at Mercedes to remove him from the equation. Little did he know of course that the Brackley squad would go on to become one of the greatest superpowers in the history of the sport.
“Niki Lauda was at Mercedes and was very keen to take Lewis and I remember encouraging him to take him,” he added.
“We were fighting McLaren and in 2012, they had the fastest car and we felt that Lewis in a McLaren would be more of a threat than in a Mercedes.
“I encouraged Niki to spend the money as Lewis was wavering a little bit. It would be fair to say that backfired on me.”
Max Verstappen claimed his first-ever world title last season after a remarkable year competing with Hamilton, and he has been rewarded with a new contract that keeps him at Milton Keynes until the end of 2028 in a deal that is reportedly worth $250 million.
Having recently labelled him the “best driver on the grid,” the 48-year-old reinforces that the retaining the Dutchman is huge for the team.
“We have huge confidence in Max, otherwise we would never have committed to that time scale,” he explained.
“To go to 2028 is almost unheard of in this sport, to commit to a driver for that period of time. He is a massive asset to us.
“He strongly believes in the team and it is down to us to provide him with the tools to get the job done.”
The Briton is looking forward to seeing how Hamilton fairs against new partner George Russell, who has been signed from Williams to replace Valtteri Bottas.
“At some point, Lewis will slow down or he’ll stop and, of course, he is going to have a massive challenge with a very competitive young team-mate and hungry team-mate this year who is going to be one of the best drivers on the grid. George Russell is a phenomenal talent,” he said.
1978 world champion Mario Andretti testified several weeks ago that once a driver claims their first title, the pressure to win more is alleviated, and it therefore becomes less strenuous.
Horner agrees with this.
“In Max, at 24, we have looked to lock down what we believe will be the purple patch of his career,” he added.
“Having won this first world championship, it relieves an awful lot of pressure. That is in the bank now.
“It is on his CV. He will continue to grow now he has got that first one out of the way. We saw that with Sebastian Vettel.”
Verstappen will defend his title in the 2022 season that kicks off this weekend in Bahrain.