Hulkenberg leaves Force India to join Renault

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Nico Hulkenberg is to join Renault next season after agreeing a release from his contract with the Silverstone-based Sahara Force India team.

The 29-year-old has been chosen by the French manufacturer to lead their 2017 line-up as they continue their return to Formula One.

Hulkenberg said he was ‘very happy’ to be joining the team, adding that it had ‘always been a dream’ to work for a manufacturer team.

The deal, for at least two years, is said to involve a £17m salary.

Hulkenberg added: “Renault has always been a big player in the motorsport world that brings up incredible memories. In his stint with Renault, 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 second seat at Renault is open, with current drivers Kevin Magnussen and Jolyon Palmer in the frame, along with Esteban Ocon and Pascal Wehrlein.

Force India, for whom Hulkenberg has driven for five years across two spells, said they respect his desire to ‘explore fresh opportunities’ with team boss Vijay Mallya adding: “It would be wrong to stand in his way.”

The team also have a seat to fill alongside Mexican Sergio Perez, with current Renault racer, Jolyon Palmer, one of the names being suggested. Palmer has previously tested for Force India, and the British racer recently scored his maiden F1 point.

Hulkenberg made his F1 debut for Williams in 2010 and drove for Sauber in 2013, he won the Le Mans 24-Hour Race with Porsche in 2015.

However his move to Renault has come as a surprise to many, as the French team are currently struggling in the F1 midfield.

In contrast, Force India are on course for a fourth-place finish in the constructors’ championship in 2016, their best since 1999 in their former guise of Jordan.