Only three Formula One teams have confirmed their 2017 driver pairings, but now we at least know who one of Renault Sport F1’s drivers will be.
Nico Hulkenberg will leave Sahara Force India at the end of this season, having signed a multi-year contract with the French manufacturer, F1 reports.
Renault made its return to F1 as a full works team in 2016, but because the company’s takeover of the Lotus F1 operation wasn’t finalized until late in the offseason, the team hasn’t been competitive this year. Given the success Renault has had in its past F1 endeavors, though, Hulkenberg said the move will provide him the opportunity to fight at the front of the field in the future.
“I’m very happy to join Renault Sport Formula One Team in 2017,” Hulkenberg said, via F1. “Renault has always been a big player in the motorsport world that brings up incredible memories: in his stint with Renault (in its former guise as Benetton), 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.”
The 29-year-old is in his sixth season in F1 but this is the first time he’s received a call from a top team, partly because, at 6-feet-tall, Hulkenberg is taller than most drivers — which is less than ideal for car designers. After winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans with Porsche on his first attempt in 2015, however, everybody in the F1 paddock took notice of his abilities.
“For our next step we required an experienced driver who is still hungry for podiums,” Jerome Stoll, chairman of Renault Sport Racing, said, according to F1. “Nico Hulkenberg fulfills this role perfectly and is an excellent complement to what we want to achieve.”
Force India had an option in Hulkenberg’s contract to bring him back for 2017, but chose not to take it out of respect for the German.
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Thumbnail photo via Mercedes-AMG Petronas