Nico Hulkenberg has been able to extricate himself from Sahara Force India and sign with Renault Sport F1 Team for 2017 and beyond in a multi-year deal.
The German had been confirmed with Force India as recently as July but was able to get out via an escape clause to move to Renault, and thus secured one of the two coveted seats at the Enstone-based squad for next year.
“Everybody at Sahara Force India wishes Nico well as he embarks upon a different path in Formula One,” said Force India team principal Vijay Mallya. “Having spent five years with us, Nico has become a great friend and contributed a huge amount to the team’s success. He’s an outstanding driver, who has scored more points for this team than anybody else. While it’s true we will miss Nico, we respect his decision to explore fresh opportunities and it would be wrong to stand in his way.”
This shift came together rather quickly in the days since the Japanese Grand Prix. Sergio Perez was only just confirmed at Force India a couple weeks ago but this now leaves a seat open at the Mercedes-powered team.
For Hulkenberg, the chance to join Renault comes quickly and affords him a chance to serve as team leader for the new-look Renault squad.
“I’m very happy to join Renault Sport Formula One Team in 2017,” he said. “Renault has always been a big player in the motorsport world that brings up incredible memories : in his stint with Renault, Michael Schumacher not only helped make Germany an F1 nation, he also sparked my enthusiasm and fire for racing. As a part of the Renault family, I want to develop the car and write new success stories.
“It has always been my dream to work for a manufacturer team. F1’s new regulations will change the game and give our team a good opportunity. In the years to come, Renault will play a challenger role, which fits my approach to racing 100 percent. I can’t wait to become part of the family.
“For the remaining races this year, I will give my best for Force India to reach fourth place in the constructors’ championship. This would be a great achievement for the whole Force India team, the biggest success in its history and a great end to a fantastic time there.
“I am grateful that Force India has given me the chance to take up this new opportunity.”
Renault was high on Hulkenberg and looks forward to having him in their camp.
“2017 will be the second season of Groupe Renault’s return as a manufacturer entry in Formula 1 and the next step in our journey,” said Jérôme Stoll, Renault Sport Racing Chairman.
“This season has been about putting the foundations in place for future success. For our next step we required an experienced driver who is still hungry for podiums. Nico Hülkenberg fulfils this role perfectly and is an excellent complement to what we want to achieve. He is a highly talented, dedicated and motivated driver. Nico will enable us to harness all the hard work completed this season and translate it to improved results on track in 2017 and beyond. We look forward to seeing him in our new car for 2017.”
Meanwhile, the question of who will serve as Hulkenberg’s teammate remains to be seen. Esteban Ocon has been linked to a Renault seat after driving the second half of this year with Manor, while Ocon’s Manor teammate Pascal Wehrlein – who’s high on Mercedes’ depth chart – could move into Force India to replace Hulkenberg.
Renault’s currently got Kevin Magnussen and Jolyon Palmer racing for them.