Hulkenberg, who will be released by Renault at the end of the season, was on HAAS’ radar to partner Kevin Magnussen for next year, before the team announced ahead of the Singapore Grand Prix that it would be carrying on with an unchanged line-up.
“It was a close call, you know, because they are both very good drivers and I hope Nico stays in F1,” Steiner explained. “I like him and he’s a good driver.
“But in the end we decided to stay with Romain. He is with the team for four years, we know his highs and his lows. We know on a good day he’s a very good driver. He knows the team very well.
“The biggest reason is our car this year is not performing as we want it to perform – which in the end has nothing to do with the drivers we’ve got at the moment. It’s the car, we’re very conscious about that.
“Now changing the driver, I don’t know if it would help us make the car better. It could, but it could also not. Because the new guy wouldn’t know where we start off.
“Romain was a big part of getting the understanding of why we are wrong with the car at the moment. He was a big help. And we didn’t want to have any more unknowns or risks.”
Asked by Motorsport.com whether there were other factors that went against Hulkenberg besides driver continuity, Steiner said: “The main thing was that one. Do we want to make this step and introduce a new element to the team? That was the main reason why we stayed with Romain. Because we know what we’ve got.”
Steiner, who said he and team owner Gene HAAS were “very aligned” on the decision, denied suggestions that the two drivers’ respective salaries played a part, as he believes Hulkenberg could’ve been available on an “acceptable” deal.
He made it clear, however, that Hulkenberg had not been approached with any formal offer.
“In the end, I want to clarify that – we decided to take Romain but I don’t know if Nico would’ve come.
“We spoke but we never made a formal offer. So I don’t know if he would’ve accepted or not, that you need to ask him.”