Calcutta: German driver Nico Hulkenberg will return to Sahara Force India in the Formula One Championships next year, after agreeing a multi-year deal, the F1 team confirmed on Tuesday.
Hulkenberg had raced for the Indian F1 team in 2012, but then moved to Sauber in 2013.
In a press statement issued by Force India, Hulkenberg said he was happy to re-join the team. “I am happy to come back to Sahara Force India. The team is aiming high for next year and I believe the experience I have gained over the years will help us achieve those goals. I genuinely believe we can have a competitive package in 2014.
“I’ve heard a lot of positive things about the Mercedes engine as well, so I think there is a lot to be excited about for next year. I know this team and I can see their determination. It’s a great bunch of people and we all share the same hunger for success,” he said.
The team release added: “Sahara Force India is delighted to confirm that Nico Hulkenberg will return to Sahara Force India in 2014 after agreeing to a multi-year deal. “The 26-year-old German is no stranger to Sahara Force India having spent 2011 and 2012 seasons with the team. The already strong working relationship will ensure a smooth transition as the team moves into new era of Formula One,” it said.
The F1 team had Paul Di Resta and Adrian Sutil as their drivers this season. The full line up for next next year will be announced “in due course”.
While Di Resta and Sutil might be retained, Sergio Perez’s name has also been mooted as a possible replacement.
Vijay Mallya, team principal and managing director, said: “I’m delighted to see Nico back with Sahara Force India. When he drove for us in 2012, Nico was an exceptional talent and he has continued to impress everyone in the paddock with his strong performances this season.
“Having him in our line-up is a real statement of intent and a huge boost for everyone associated with the team. We have high hopes and expectations for 2014 and by signing Nico we have put ourselves in the best position to achieve those objectives and enjoy what could be our most competitive season yet.”
Hulkenberg first raced in F1 in 2010 with the Williams team. Despite winning the first pole position for Williams in over five years, he was not retained for 2011, and that was when Force India picked him up as a test and reserve driver.
On November 6, 2010 he gained his first Formula One pole position for Williams, by 1.049 seconds over Sebastian Vettel at the Brazilian Grand Prix. This was the Williams team’s first pole position since the 2005 European Grand Prix.
Hulkenberg was promoted to a race seat with Force India for the 2012 season, joining Paul di Resta. However, he left for Sauber in 2013 with 21-year old Mexican driver Esteban Gutierrez as his teammate.
Hulkenberg’s association with Force India started on 26 January 2011, when he was confirmed as their reserve driver and would drive for the team in the Friday practice sessions.
He had then replaced Paul di Resta, who was promoted to a race position in the team. He competed in the first practice sessions of all the races apart from Monaco, Hungary, Korea, India and Abu Dhabi. On 16 December 2011, Force India announced di Resta and Hulkenberg would be their drivers for the 2012 season.
Hulkenberg qualified ninth for the Australian Grand Prix, six places ahead of di Resta, but his race ended on the first lap after picking up damage in a first-corner incident before retiring further round the course.
He picked up his first points for Force India the following weekend, at the Malaysian Grand Prix, finishing ninth. He achieved his best F1 finish with a fourth place at the Belgian Grand Prix.
However, he didn’t score any points in Italy or Singapore, but collected points at all of the next five Grands Prix, except on the Yas Marina Circuit where he was involved in a collision on the first lap, and subsequently retired.
In the last race of the season, the 2012 Brazilian Grand Prix, Hulkenberg qualified 7th but was promoted to 6th after Pastor Maldonado received a 10 place grid penalty.
Hulkenberg finished the year 17 points ahead of his teammate Paul di Resta. In the 2012 season, he replaced Sergio Pérez in Sauber when Perez moved to McLaren.