The guy that always deserved a better Formula One seat, Nico Hulkenberg, has left Force India and joined the Renault revolution for 2017, with a deal that will see the German Le Mans winner race in French yellow in 2018 and even possibly 2019 too.
If you’re reading the above paragraph and thinking “why?” then you have every right to – Force India are closing in on a best ever result of 4th in the constructors race, while Renault languish in 9th and regularly finish behind the Haas of Esteban Guiterrez, who it seems to be perennially 11th each and every time he races.
Renault need to improve their results next season, and can with the consistency Hulkenberg brings. Despite now going over 100 races without standing on a podium – and probably growing frustrated that in that time he’s seen teammate Sergio Perez manage it four times – he can still bring it when he needs to in an F1 car. With the rules changing for 2017, Renault reinvesting in the infrastructure and strides slowly being made in the power unit department, there’s so much potential to come from Enstone that, at 29, it’s almost a perfect time for Nico to sign. And, with manufacturer teams having that knack of finding performance thanks to wedges of cash, success can’t be that far away really, can it?
But the deal makes sense for Hulkenberg. It’s the race seat he nearly got in 2014 when the team was still Lotus, but was pipped to it thanks to Pastor Maldonado’s extensive sponsorship portfolio. And Nico’s not shy of moving around the grid to try and improve his chances too, bouncing from Force India to Sauber and back again a few seasons ago.
In fact, Nico has been linked with bigger teams throughout his F1 career; Mercedes courted him during his initial Force India stint in 2012, and two months of negotiations with Ferrari were brought to an abrupt halt by text message, of all mediums.
Now, of it doesn’t go well, the blow will be softened by two seasons of probably above-average wage, a shrug of “oh well, tried my best” and an almost guaranteed seat on the WEC grid. This really is the best move for Hulkenberg – security, potential, and the satisfaction that finally, after half a decade of trying, a Formula One works team is willing to stick their neck out for him.