It’s another sideways step in Nico Hulkenberg’s career as the German returns to Force India – A team who the German turned his back on just twelve months ago. The relationship between Sauber and Hulkenberg was somewhat of a non-starter, after Nico openly expressed his regret towards leaving his former team at the start of 2013 when his C32 failed to even make the grid in Australia. While the Lotus seat was Hulkenberg’s target this winter, returning to a team where he enjoyed relative success in 2012 is by far from a disastrous result – especially since just a few weeks ago there was a possibility that Hulkenberg could be out of a drive next season.
The “multi-year” deal at Force India was the best seat available to Hulkenberg following Maldonado’s arrival at Lotus. When the announcement finally came, it was far from surprising. At Brazil, Nico was pictured chatting to his ex-colleges at Force India – It was seemingly a deliberate ploy to hint at the German’s imminent arrival.
“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. “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.” Vijay Mallya is obviously not a man to bare a grudge. Just 12 months ago Hulkenberg left on seemingly acrimonious fashion, especially considering that he managed to lead a large portion of the Brazilian Grand Prix, equipt with machinery built by the team who he was about to leave.
Hulkenberg concluded; “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.” Next year could be very prosperous for Force India as the regulation changes could play into their hands. The team’s 1.6 litre V6 Turbo engine will be supplied by Mercedes, who are likely to provide the best package, (despite a recent claim by Renault for early supremacy). Force India could be the surprise package of next season along with my tip for 2014 success, Williams.
In regards to who Hulkenberg’s teammate will be, Sergio Perez has been widely regarded as the perfect fit for Force India. This speculation gathered pace in Brazil, when the McLaren refugee proclaimed that his chances of landing a seat was very positive. However, Hulkenberg downplayed his input and interest on the signing of his partner next season. “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.”