Force India announce that Nico Hulkenberg will race for them in 2014 F1 season
German rejoins Silverstone-based team after one year at Sauber
By Mike Wise. Last Updated: 16/12/13 5:37pm
Happy to be back
Force India confirmed on Tuesday that Nico Hulkenberg will race for them again next season.
The "multi-year" deal means a return to the Silverstone-based team for the highly-rated German, who raced for them in 2012 having served as reserve driver the season before that.
Hulkenberg left Force India for Sauber at the end of last year and had been in contention for a drive at Lotus until the latter outfit confirmed Pastor Maldonado last week.
"I'm very happy to be back," Hulkenberg told Natalie Pinkham on Sky Sports News. "I was here for two years, felt very comfortable and had a really good time.
"In 2012, the second half, we had some amazing results and I look forward very much to repeating that - and maybe getting even better."
Hulkenberg, who led last year's Brazilian GP for the team, revealed that Force India's co-owner Vijay Mallya had made overtures almost as soon as the 2013 season had begun.
Unlike Force India, Sauber had endured a difficult start and although their respective fortunes subsequently changed on track, the Swiss team's year was also notable for their financial struggles - something Hulkenberg hinted was a factor in his decision to move back.
With money also undoubtedly behind cash-strapped Lotus's hiring of Maldonado, the 26-year-old admitted he needed to seize the initiative to stay in F1.
"We were in contact all year long and in Malaysia, after the race, we had a coffee together and we were talking about the season. Obviously at that time, they had the upper hand - they had a very competitive car," said Hulkenberg, who finished tenth in this season's Drivers' Championship.
"But then for me, really, at some point I had to take a decision on my future - not to be left without a seat.
"At Force India, I really felt they wanted me, they were able to answer the questions I wanted and give me the info I needed and was asking. That was different to other people.
"Therefore I made the decision to come here. I have good trust and belief in this team that we can put something together which will allow us to have some special results."
Hulkenberg rejoins as Formula 1 undergoes a technical transformation, with next year's cars powered by 1.6-litre V6 turbocharged engines which also feature powerful energy recovery systems. Might Force India become more competitive as a result?
2013 Season Review
"It's really tough to know, all winter we're going to be answering these questions. We're entering a new era in Formula 1 and therefore it's impossible to tell," he replied.
"What we must make sure now is that we do our homework and that we work really hard on our project, on our car, and that's all we can do to be competitive next year."
What Hulkenberg hopes stands him in good stead is Force India's continuing relationship with Mercedes.
"I'm confident we can have a good package. We'll see next year. We have a Mercedes package which I think is a good benefit," he added.
Force India have yet to reveal the identity of his team-mate and Hulkenberg insisted that Mallya had given him no indication.
McLaren refugee Sergio Perez appears favourite to take the seat rather than either of the current drivers Paul Di Resta and Adrian Sutil. But Hulkenberg said that he has no real preference.
"It doesn't really matter for me, to be honest," he said. "I want to have a strong team-mate, one which is challenging me and I can challenge him - because that way we're pushing each other and the team forward.
"I know there's a few names around in the press but it's not my decision; it's the shareholders' decision and the team management and I'm sure it won't be long before we know."
You can watch Nico Hulkenberg's full interview with Natalie Pinkham on Tuesday at 9pm on Sky Sports F1.