After 111 Formula 1 grands prix, Nico Hulkenberg can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. The only manufacturer works team the German driver has driven for was Porsche at Le Mans and he won the 24 hour race. Now he will drive for Renault in 2017 leaving his Force India team behind.
Sergio Perez and Carlos Sainz were said to be in the running and some have mentioned an internal management issue as the reasons they may not have joined but it seems they weren’t enough of an issue to prevent Nico from inking his name on a contract.
If said issues do exist, I have every reason to believe they will resolve themselves or Renault’s senior management will resolve them in time. This is not a company new to the notion of racing in F1, it isn’t their first rodeo and they will make the changes needed regarding Permane, Vasseur or Abiteboul. What will remain is a team with the resources to develop and win and I have said for some time now that they may a team to watch—specifically if you’re McLaren.
Nico has been passed over by many other top teams and his name is not the last in association with he marque. Daniil Kvyat as well as existing drivers Kevin Magnussen and Jolyon Pamler and Esteban Ocon are all being mentioned to team with Hulkenberg. Ocon is also being tipped as a replacement for Hulkenberg at Force India and that’s a ride that is a serious move up for many drivers on the grid considering that they are currently beating Renault in the constructor’s championship.
Nico has a two-year deal with options and this is a long-term opportunity for him to make the team his own. What I can’t fault is Nico’s driving skills but I am not sure he is the type of driver that can circle a team around him and be the leader they may be looking for with regards to building the team around him as well as being a brand ambassador. Time will tell.
The role of a constructor driver is different than an independent team driver and it will be interesting to see how he does. He certainly did well with Porsche in the WEC 24 hours of Le Mans.
Jérôme Stoll, Renault Sport Racing Chairman:
“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. 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.”
“I’m very happy to join Renault Sport Formula One Team in 2017. 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%. 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.”