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A new challenge - Nico Hulkenberg: Why Renault switch is the right step in my F1 career

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A new challenge - Nico Hulkenberg: Why Renault switch is the right step in my F1 career
Oct 21, 2016, 2:32 PM

Nico Hulkenberg has described his move to Renault for the 2017 Formula 1 season as the “right step” for his career and he looks forward to the ...

Nico Hulkenberg has described his move to Renault for the 2017 Formula 1 season as the “right step” for his career and he looks forward to the new challenge of building up the works team to championship level.

The German driver will leave the Force India squad were he has raced for four out the last five seasons (and spent 2011 as a test driver) to join the Enstone-based Renault squad for next year.

Although highly rated by many F1 insiders and with an unparalleled career in junior categories, Hulkenberg has the unenviable record of being the third most experienced driver in F1 history without a podium finish, behind Pierluigi Martini who made 118 Gp starts and Adrian Sutil, who started 128 races.

He needs a step change and feels that the Renault opportunity over the next two to three years should give him that.

Speaking at the pre-event press conference at the US Grand Prix, Hulkenberg explained that he had decided to switch teams to embrace a new challenge.

Nico Hulkenberg

He said: “I believe that it's the right step in my career at this point. I feel I have come a long way with Force India - it's my fifth year with them. We've had some good success together.

“But I felt that it's time for a new challenge. Since I'm in F1 I've always wanted to race for a manufacturer team and this is a really good opportunity. The timing was pretty good too. So I think it was a good decision I think from my side.”

Renault is believed to have also offered Valtteri Bottas an interesting deal, the manufacturer having decided to spend money on higher quality drivers rather than look for drivers that take money. Bottas is contracted to Williams, however.

Renault has endured a difficult first year back in F1 as a full constructor and has only scored eight points so far this season. It’s best result came at the Russian Grand Prix where Kevin Magnussen finished seventh, but the team has finished in the top ten two times in the last three races thanks to the Danish driver’s tenth place in Singapore and his teammate Jolyon Palmer doing likewise in Malaysia.

Jolyon Palmer

The team has struggled with an under-developed RS16 car that had to be adapted late on its design process to incorporate the Renault V6 turbo engine rather than the Mercedes units being used by the former Lotus squad last season.

When the RS16 was launched back in February, Renault’s company bosses outlined their plans for a three-year roadmap to get the team back on the F1 podium and its chief technical officer Bob Bell told this website in the summer that it would not be “an unrealistic time frame” for the team be fighting for the world title in five years.

Hulkenberg’s current Force India squad lies fourth in the constructors’ championship – a position that would be its best ever result in F1 if it can hold off Williams over the remaining four races – and has scored four podiums in the last three seasons via Sergio Perez.

Nico Hulkenberg

But although Renault is currently five places below Force India in the constructors’ standings, Hulkenberg believes that its manufacturer status offers greater potential to move up the grid and reckons his switch may allow him to compete for wins and championships in the future.

He said: “I think them being a manufacturer, they are under some expectations to eventually be successful and be at the front and compete for wins and that's obviously what I'm looking for.

“We know at the moment there is still a long journey ahead of them, to climb back to the top because it's been a difficult year and where they've come from, when they bought Lotus last year was not the easiest situation so it will take time to rebuild the team and to get back to the top.

“but obviously what I see there is a good future, definitely a big challenge, a massive challenge but I'm very much up for that and why not build a new success story with them?”

Palmer “not sure” Renault appreciates its drivers

With Hulkenberg now confirmed at Renault, at least one of the squad’s current drivers will leave the team at the end of the season and there have been many other candidates linked to the second seat.

Jolyon Palmer

Magnussen told the Austin press conference that he hoped he could “stay on as [Hulkenberg’s] teammate” but Palmer questioned if Renault appreciated the results its current drivers achieved in a difficult car.

Speaking to reporters in the Austin paddock, the British driver said: “Do I think they appreciate everything we've done? I'm not sure. Kevin has done some great races as well and he's proven in 2014 [when raced for McLaren] what he can do in a good car.

"He finished second in his first race, he out-qualified Jenson [Button] over the course of the year. Now two years on we're both struggling because the car is not really there. Neither of us probably have not got the credit we deserve in a difficult car.”

What do you make of the Renault’s driver dilemma for 2017? Has Hulkenberg made the right choice to join the team? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below or head over to the JAonF1 Facebook page for more discussion.
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Series Formula 1
Drivers Nico Hulkenberg Shop Now , Kevin Magnussen
Teams Ferrari Shop Now