Red Bull likely to stay in-house for 2020 but Hulkenberg is an option

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Red Bull isn't ruling out considering Nico Hulkenberg for a 2020 seat but admits an in-house driver is more likely

The seat alongside Max Verstappen has become the most lucrative for next season, following the confirmation of Valtteri Bottas at Mercedes this week.

Indeed, it was that decision which has left Hulkenberg on the sidelines currently with Esteban Ocon moving in at Renault.

At Red Bull though, the trigger was the call to drop Pierre Gasly which team boss Christian Horner claims was done with his interests in mind.

“We took a little time to reflect after Hungary,” he told Sky Sports.

“Hungary was a tough weekend for Pierre and we came to the conclusion that it was almost fairer for Pierre to say, look, we have four cockpits in Formula 1, let’s take the pressure off him as he was obviously struggling with that pressure.

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“The situation was getting worse and worse and now he has the time at Toro Rosso to rebuild himself. We now give Alex [Albon] a chance as we know Daniil Kvyat very well and we see his potential. With Alex, we see his potential too.

“We now take these nine races left in the year to evaluate who will be Max’s teammate for next year.”

Other than Verstappen, the only Red Bull-backed driver to score a podium in 2019 is Kvyat, who was in the right place at the right time in Germany.

And he knows all too well the merry-go-round that can take place.

"One thing with Red Bull is that it is always open," he said on Thursday. "Whenever someone doesn't perform, there is always automatic pressure, especially if someone else in the junior team is performing.

"It is not going to change in the next few months," the Russian added of his own chances. "I cannot get too greedy because it is incredible that I already managed to come back to Formula 1.

"Then already all of you were pushing me to the senior team after a couple of months since I came back. For sure Red Bull has their own plan."

The expectation is, as Horner confirmed, that Gasly, Albon and Daniil Kvyat are the most likely candidates vying for that position, but with a well-respected alternative in Hulkenberg available, the Briton was coy.

"Obviously we monitor the situation externally but it is unlikely that we would take a driver from outside our own development program," he said.

"But as I said, if we don’t feel we have a driver that can get the job done, as we did with Mark Webber, he was taken externally."