Although Jeff Gordon never made it on to the F1 grid during his career, the four-time NASCAR Cup Series Champion revealed that discussions got more serious than he ever thought they would.
The 49-year-old, now retired, swapped cars with Juan Pablo Montoya back in 2003 for a television feature. Gordon admits he held discussions with Williams and BAR, when the latter were preparing for their maiden F1 campaign in 1999, though ultimately a deal never took shape.
“So there were a lot of discussions that went on that got more serious than I thought they would after that [test], because I did have so much fun with it and I started thinking: ‘Can I train my neck enough to do this, can I learn the tracks, can I be competitive?'," Gordon told Tom Clarkson on the Beyond the Grid podcast.
“There was one other conversation: Jacques Villeneuve was a part of these talks and conversations when he was at BAR… when that was all being formed, I think they wanted an American driver, somehow I got on the list, and we had a lot of discussions."
Gordon stated that then-F1 chief Bernie Ecclestone tried to convince him to make the switch on more than one occasion.
“He was involved yes, I had discussions with him and they were not long discussions, but I think there was some talks about a big interest in an American driver," Gordon added.
"When I would come to the racetrack, he and I would chat real quick about it and he was like ‘We’ve got to get you a ride… what have we got to do?’"
In the end, Gordon believes discussions never really got off the ground because he didn't feel it was realistic for him to leave NASCAR, where he was enjoying so much success, to start over in a new series.
"The discussions were 'Okay, you got to test in IndyCar and then you're gonna go test, at that time, I don't know if it was Formula 3'," Gordon added. "I think that was around 1998 or 1999 and I'd just won my third championship so things were hot for me in NASCAR.
"When I looked at it I was like okay, you want me to leave. I'm with the best team winning races, winning championships and I'm gonna have to leave this and I'm gonna have to start my career all over basically, and go learn how to be a road racer in an open wheel rear engine car. I was like that's fun to talk about, but that again just doesn't seem realistic.
"So both of those opportunities came my way and they were fun discussions, but never went anywhere because I love NASCAR and I just didn't see me starting over at that point."