Nico Hulkenberg, Force India, Silverstone, 2015

Force India sign new two-year deal with Hulkenberg

2016 F1 season

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Nico Hulkenberg, Force India, Silverstone, 2015Nico Hulkenberg will remain at Force India for the next two seasons, the team has announced.

“I’m very pleased to finalise and announce my plans for the future,” said Hulkenberg. “I know this team inside out and I feel at home here so it made perfect sense to make a long-term commitment.”

“The progress the team has shown over the last two years has really impressed me and gives me confidence for the future. It’s a great group of people who are hungry for success and want to keep improving year-on-year. I think we have the important things in place going forward and I want to continue growing with this team as we move even further up the grid.”

Hulkenberg joined Force India as a reserve driver in 2011 after being dropped by Williams at the end of his first season as an F1 driver. He was promoted to their race team in 2012, but left for Sauber the following season, only to return one year later.

Force India team principal Vijay Mallya described himself as “one of Nico’s biggest fans” and said the new deal was “fantastic” for the team.

“He has spent almost four years with us already and in that time we’ve seen him develop into one of the best racing drivers in the world. Nico has the speed, the technical knowledge and the maturity to help us achieve some great results in the years ahead. We will do everything we can to continue delivering a car to match his talent.”

Hulkenberg also started two rounds of the World Endurance Championship for Porsche this year, winning the Le Mans 24 Hours with team mates Nick Tandy and Earl Bamber.

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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49 comments on “Force India sign new two-year deal with Hulkenberg”

  1. Best bit of transfer business done today.

  2. Unfortunately, I think this is the best option available to him, though I doubt Force India will significantly move up the grid anymore. Signing with Haas would have been a huge risk. I would be surprised if Haas are on the pace in their first season, and signing with them in the hopes of landing a Ferrari seat later sounds like a long shot.

    I always held on to the belief that Nico would someday get a top seat, which he deserves in my opinion, but after Ferrari’s latest snub it is starting to look very unlikely. Of course, he will still be a young man after the next two years at Force India, but somehow I feel he has missed the boat.

  3. Yay! (I suppose). It certainly feels like a good partnership and despite the fact I’m sure he wants something more competitive, it looks like they both get along well. He must have turned down something pretty lucrative from Porsche though. Lets hope his patience pays off!

  4. In all probability it’s the best available option for him at the moment. Especially if it means he can carry on moonlighting in the World Endurance Championship.

    1. True, but still a disappointing stagnation in his career.

    2. I’d wait to see what Renault is up to if I were him.

    3. @keithcollantine One can only wonder when he gives up on F1 to go for a world title in endurance racing. Even Webber can still become World champion this season.

      1. @xtwl He has time for that. Even if he switches in 2020 he’ll still be only 33 and will have at least a decade of top-level sportscar racing in front of him

    4. Definitely a good thing to stay with FI. It would have been a shame if he would be fighting the Manors and McLarens next year with Haas…

      Now he can keep his engagement in WEC. Though I wonder if Lotus/Renault could snatch him away from FI in 2017.

      1. @paeschli Ouch! no belief in Mclaren progress in 2016? ;)

        And I’m sure there are stipulations in the contract to allow NH to leave for a top team in 2017. Next year it’ll be Maldonado still there almost certainly from what I’ve read in credible sources. Crashtor has a contract for 2016 that would be difficult to wriggle out of. For 2017 he has only an option though so will be booted out

  5. Sadly the best place for him. Deserves a place at a stronger team, one that can fight for wins and championships but for now Force India is probably his only option. I quite like both Hulkenberg and Perez – I just wish they were closer to the front than they are.

    1. @rocketpanda
      Why does he deserve a place in a better team ?
      0 podiums and 0 wins from over 80 races are hardly the kind of stats you’d expect from someone many fans regard as a top driver.
      He’s a decent and consistant driver, but he’s yet to do anything that makes me believe he’s as good as some people suggest.
      He’s had five and a half years in F1 and has yet to be offered a seat from one of the big teams, which makes me think those teams don’t consider him to be as good as some fans think he is. Personally I’d rate him similarly to Coulthard or Webber – a good driver that will score consistant points, but not a team leader or championship contender for a big team.

      1. Won the GP2 title in his first year. Got a pole in his rookie year. Has outscored every team mate he’s got so far except in his rookie season. Almost won a wet race in 2012 is a Force India.

        He never got on a podium, but he has finished in the top 5 nine times, while Perez only did so on six occasions.

        Pretty impressive IMHO.

        1. @paeschli
          His team mates haven’t been of the highest quality, di Resta and Perez are hardly the toughest competition. His rookie year was with Rubens who often made him look quite ordinary, whereas Lewis managed to equal Alonso in the same machinery in his rookie year.
          And almost winning a wet race doesn’t come close to actually winning a wet race, as Sebastian managed with Torro Rosso.

          1. On the contrary, Hülkenberg’s rookie season alongside Barrichello was impressive, particularly in the 2nd half of the season, his dominant pole position in Brazil driving the Williams-Cosworth should not be ignored. Also, the teams were allowed much more testing in 2007 when Hamilton and Vettel arrived in F1 than in 2010 when Hülkenberg arrived, not to mention that Hamilton started with a top team whilst Hülkenberg entered into a midfield team, so your comparison of his rookie season to Hamilton’s is somewhat unfair.

          2. His pole should not be ignored in terms of leaving the pits at the right time.
            But it had nothing to do with extraordinary driving. Right place, right time.

          3. @rob91
            I’m not comparing Nico’s results with Lewis’s, I’m comparing their performance relative to their team mates. Nico scored about half the points of Rubens, while Lewis equalled Fernando. In both cases the two drivers were new to their teams and would have had the same opportunities to test the car compared to their team mates. As such the comparison is perfectly valid, and it shows that Nico performed poorly against a decent driver over the whole season, while Lewis matched one of the best drivers of his generation.

          4. @beneboy remember that Lewis had tons and tons of testing milage whereas Hulk and all the other drivers that came to F1 in the last few years have suffered serious testing limitations. In the old days, anyone could rack up hundreds of thousands of miles a year.,, even Gary Paffet

          5. @fer-no65
            That lack of testing didn’t stop Dan from beating his four times world champion team mate in his third season. It hasn’t prevented the Torro Rosso drivers from impressing this season either.
            I don’t really buy the testing argument, the drivers spend countless hours in the simulator and other drivers that entered the sport since Nico did have been competing under the same conditions.

          6. @beneboy

            I don’t feel it is fair to compare Lewis’ situation with the Hulks when you compare the machinery they had in their rookie year. It’s much easier to drive a top car in your first year than it is to drive a mediocre car. Ruben’s experience would’ve counted for much, much more.

            I personally rate him very highly and feel he deserves a better car. There have been many occasions where he has put the car where it doesn’t deserve to be and that is usually a sign of a talented driver.

          7. @racectrl

            I don’t feel it is fair to compare Lewis’ situation with the Hulks when you compare the machinery they had in their rookie year. It’s much easier to drive a top car in your first year than it is to drive a mediocre carRuben’s experience would’ve counted for much, much more.

            Not really in my opinion. The better the car you drive, is the higher the expectations are. Hamilton wouldn’t have been that highly rated had he simply finished on the podium a handful of times and struggled to beat Heidfeld’s BMW in the championship. Conversely, a handful of podiums or a win in a midfield car would boost a young driver’s reputation.

            And of course, Alonso, a double reigning champion is tougher than reigning Barrichello to me, as decent as Rubens was that year.

          8. @david-a

            Sorry, disagree. Given the choice most rookies would chose Hamilton’s privileged start to his career over Hulkenbergs. To argue that Hulkenberg had an easier start to his career is borderline delusional. Hamilton was in one of the best cars in the grid and was essentially in a 4 car race that season (Alonso + two Ferraris) Also, he wasn’t expected to beat Alonso so there was essentially no pressure. Possibly why he performed so well that season as he had everything to gain and nothing to lose(plus a huge amount of natural talent of course)

            Put Alonso and Hamilton in a under-performing car in the middle of the pack and the outcome would’ve been completely different. Alonso would’ve used his experience to get the most out of the package, stayed out of trouble and out-scored Hamilton – Much like Rubens did to Hulkenberg in 2010.

          9. @racectrl
            I’m sure every rookie would like an opportunity to win races off the bat. What I’m pointing out is that a slower car makes it hard in the sense that you’re less likely to get podiums or wins, but a faster car raises the results expected, making it harder in a different way. Hamilton would have still looked fairly mediocre if he’d taken a handful of podiums and say, 1 win, which is still statistically greater than most rookies. Kovalainen in 2008 being an example (he was in his second year, but it’s still valid enough).

            In this case, Hulkenberg had an undoubtedly weaker teammate than Hamilton did. And still performed much worse than Hamilton did, as @beneboy points out. Whether Hamilton would have suddenly not maximised a slower car is speculation. Hulk wasn’t bad, but impressive pole aside, didn’t stand out in 2010 as Hamilton did in 2007, or even Vettel did in 2008 (in a mediocre car to boot).

    2. Hulk’s problem is he’s not quite top tier, and lost a lot of cred I suspect with his two errors in an around the lead in Brazil 2012, but he’s too dangerous for teams to want him upsetting their prima driver.

      I wish Merc would swap him in for Rosberg, but anyway hopefully he has an exit clause for 2017, just in case.

  6. Hope he has an out clause in case something better becomes available. But I agree with many who have already said that it is becoming increasingly unlikely that doors will open in top teams in the coming years.

    RBR promote from within; McLaren isn’t exactly killing it right now and have a stable of drivers that want in or back in; Merc would be unlikely to drop ROS for another German and HAM isn’t going anywhere unless he wants to; Ferrari seem to have their eyes on others now even though supposedly the deal with Hulk was all but signed before Kimi returned (and as big of a fan as I have been of Kimi’s, they may have made the wrong choice there); which only leaves Renault–who are a big question mark in whether they will return and if they do, how good will they be and who will they want. Hulk could have presumably held out to see if he could snag a seat in the rebirth of the factory Renault team but assuming they keep Grosjean, he would have been fighting to push out moneybags.

    Ugh.

  7. Oh man auto correct : here’s hoping that FI survives for the duration of its contract

    1. Haha, no half measure eh? XD

    2. We started hearing about Force India won’t be there in the grid next year, almost every season last five years. Ofcourse to do with the financial situation, was’t the same case for them every year right? Even then they were on the grid and fighting way above their weight. And I am sure they will be doing it for few more years mate :)

  8. We will do everything we can to continue delivering a car to match his talent

    That’s like an insult, he deserves a much better car.

    1. “everything we can” I thinks it’s fair given they said this. They obviously would aim to give him a championship winning car, if they can.

      1. I agree, “everything you can” is the best you can decently ask for :)

        1. But what are they doing everything they can to achieve? “continue delivering a car to match his talent”. So his talent has been matched by the car they have designed for the last few years? I’d rate him higher.

  9. Great news, both Perez and Hulkenberg make a solid pair for FI at least from the rest of the midfield team. Hopefully Perez stays as well.

  10. This is exactly what is wrong with F1 – a talented driver like Hulkenberg can’t find a top seat. This is an indication that more teams are needed that can challenge at the top but unfortunately it’s too expensive and difficult. I also think that drivers are sticking around for longer than they did before (Button and Alonso) – this may have to do with the fact that the sport is much safer today than it was before and drivers feel that there is no risk in continuing their F1 careers. It also may have to do with the fact that it’s a lot easier to drive the cars today than it was in the old days at least according to what everyone’s saying.

    Make racing harder, add more teams and this would not have been an issue.

    1. But isn’t having many champions a good thing?

    2. Button and Alonso aren’t that old in historic terms.

      1. That is certainly the case – even in relatively recent years, it would not be surprising for drivers of their age to continue racing for several more years.

        It is not uncommon for drivers to continue racing into their late 30’s – rather than hanging on for too long, many would say that both of those drivers would still have a few years left in the tank by historical standards. When they both remain competitive, why should McLaren get rid of them?

        Equally, why would making the cars harder to drive shift the balance away from older drivers? Many have argued the reverse is the case – that it enables younger drivers to enter the sport and displace older drivers sooner rather than later. Just look at how, despite the claims that the cars were harder to drive in the 1980’s and 1990’s, drivers would commonly compete into their late 30’s or early 40’s in that era – being an older driver did not inhibit them from competing for longer in a supposedly tougher era.

  11. Best option available to him for 2016, no doubt. But I am surprised by his two year deal. He puts himself out of sync for some very good seats that are available for 2017. Ferrari, Mercedes each have 1 seat for 2017. Williams may take up Massa’s extension for 2016 but for 2017, all options may be kept open. Mclaren also have a good chance of going up the order in 2016 and may have an extra seat in 2017.

    Additionally, young drivers such as Ricciardo and Verstappen are out of contract in 2016 and these aforementioned teams will look to sign them on for a longer term contract as they have age on their side. What this means, is come 2018, when Hulkernberg (aged 31 then) is on the market, there will be very few good seats available to him. That will be very bad news for him.

    I sincerely Hope he has an escape clause for 2017.

  12. This is a good decision by Hülkenberg to stay with Force India, they are a good team and I think they are likely to improve for the future. Plus he keeps himself in contention for any future front running seats simply by sticking around in a decent car, had he decided to quit F1 for the WEC then that would have been it for him regarding F1. Once you leave F1 you are unlikely to return unless you are already a champion like Prost, Räikkönen or Schumacher.

    1. Why leave F1 when he can do both, Force India has already supported his WEC endeavours which i think is great thing to do.

  13. Force India keep their most valuable asset, Hulkenberg gets to keep racing in F1 & WEC with two teams that are getting stronger every year. This is the most sensible signing of the year.

  14. Logical decision, to be honest. What other options did he have for next year afterall? Haas which is completely unknown quantity / will most likely play second fiddle to Ferrari and Renault, IF they decide to buy their way into the sport. It was either Force India or the WEC, really. Everything else would have been a downward move.

    Force India is just fine for him. It’s a steady job with a team that knows him well and he’s confortable with. Also, it’s probably the only team willing to allow him a split contract with Porsche in the WEC (something which might have had a massive influence over his decision).

    I do believe, however, that this time his F1 career finally flatlined. Even if he has an exit clause for 2017, I can’t imagine who of the top teams will want to pick him up by then anyway as everyone seems to have other plans regarding their future drivers.

    I’m already surprised he didn’t take the endurance route with Porsche and I would be very surprised if he doesn’t finally head their way in 2018.

  15. I am pleased to see that Hulk will be staying in F1 – it would be a crying shame to see a driver of his ability leave F1 to go to the WEC while still in his twenties, no disrespect to the Endurance championship whatsoever but he can commit to that later in his career. Given that the route to Ferrari is closed, for the time being at least, it’s probably the best option he has right now.

    By the stage I can’t help but think that his career path looks rather a lot like Nick Heidfeld’s – both drivers dominated F3000/GP2 a decade apart and looked like real hot shots when they started out but their F1 careers stalled somewhat after failing to progress beyond a midfield team (Sauber in Heidfeld’s case, Force India for Hulkenberg) and both have been overshadowed by the media attention given to their successful compatriots in faster cars (Vettel and to some extent Rosberg doing for Hulk what Michael Schumacher did for Heidfeld). Unfortunately, I fear the end result will be the same in terms of hard results. Interestingly though Hulk is still only 28, the same age when Heidfeld began the most productive years of his career (10 podiums between 2005-08 compared to just one beforehand and two afterwards).

    I think Hulk’s lack of podium finishes is to some extent a reflection on modern F1, the reliability of the cars in his early years of F1 (2010-13) and even now (barring the Renault and Honda powered cars!) mean that even his best performances tend only to get him mid-way into the points. In the 1980s or 90s he’d have probably visited the podium at least once as two or three cars in front of him would probably have failed when he was running in a favourable position. I genuinely think that it is more difficult for drivers in the midfield to shine nowadays – just imagine, for instance, if the 1991-2002 points system was still used today?

    1. I genuinely think that it is more difficult for drivers in the midfield to shine nowadays – just imagine, for instance, if the 1991-2002 points system was still used today?

      – Toro Rosso would have achieved just 2 points finishes in 7 years (Canada ’13, Hungary ’15)
      – Sainz, Buemi, Alguersuari wouldn’t have scored a point in their career (so far)
      – Williams would have finished 2011 & 2013 without any points
      – Maldonado would have juts 12 career points, all from 2012, and 10 of them from one race

      1. And they’d all have used different strategies in those races to make sure they got some points. Plenty of 7th and 8th places where they could have gone for 6th or better, but didn’t feel the need.

  16. Such a shame for Hulk to remain relagated to one of the most half-hearted F1 teams in the modern era. Frankly I’ll be impressed if they are even on the grid for the next 2 seasons.

    I truly wish someone will pay the massive price Mallaya is asking and show how great this team could be with proper management and budget!

  17. I’m not glad to this. He wastes the chance for a good team with this.

  18. And I thought F1 teams liked safe bets…… cant get a safer option than nico …. So we might actually not ever b able to see the top team version of nico ????

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