Nico Hulkenberg will join the Renault Formula One team in 2017 as part of a multi-year deal.
The deal, sealed after the German negotiated a release from his contract with Force India, is rumoured to be worth around £17m per year.
Twenty-nine year-old Hulkenberg, long considered one of the brightest talents in the F1 paddock, is a veteran of 111 Grands Prix having made his F1 debut with Williams back in 2010. The former GP 2 world champion’s five years of service at Force India from 2011 to the current season were punctuated by a spell racing for Sauber in 2013. Yet to register his maiden GP victory, the German does boast a pole position to his name and his CV away from F1 is particularly glowing, having won the Le Mans 24 Hours at his first attempt last year.
As for Hulkenberg’s new employers, 2016 has proven a difficult comeback season for the former world champions. The French team’s late takeover of Lotus at the end of 2015 put it at a significant disadvantage to its more established competitors. As such, results for its current driver pairing Kevin Magnussen and Jolyon Palmer have been mixed in 2016. However, the returning champions’ long-term vision to challenge for the world title within the next five years was clearly enough to turn Hulkenberg’s head.
It’s a goal that is quite simply beyond the means of his current employers Force India. Speaking this week, Team Principle Vijay Mallya acknowledged as much by affirming that it would be wrong to stand the way of Hulkenberg’s desire to “explore fresh opportunities”. Likewise, Hulkenberg has been quick to praise the team with which he’s enjoyed his most successful years in the sport to date: “I am grateful that Force India has given me the chance to take up this new opportunity.”
He added: “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.”
This amicable parting of the ways may yet yield new opportunities for the Silverstone-based team, which is currently on-course to achieve a historic fourth-place in the constructors’ championship. With only one seat now available at Renault next season, one of the current line-up is sure to be jettisoned. Force India are said to be keen on acquiring the services of either Palmer or Magnussen for next season whilst other options could include Pascal Wehrlein and Esteban Ocon, both of Manor.