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Hulkenberg returns to Force India, but who will race alongside him in 2014?
Posted By: James Allen  |  03 Dec 2013   |  5:14 pm GMT  |  153 comments

Sahara Force India today announced the news that most observers had been expecting for some time; that Nico Hulkenberg will return to the team for 2014. The German driver has impressed greatly during this season, with some exceptional qualifying and race performances in the Sauber, but despite knocking on the door of the top teams, he has not been able to create an opening.

So he goes back to the team for which he drove in 2012. It is his third move in four seasons. Force India never wanted him to leave in the first place, but he felt that Sauber was a better bet as it had scored four podiums in 2012 and driving there would put him in Ferrari’s orbit as they provide the engines for the Swiss team. Hulkenberg was in consideration for Felipe Massa’s seat, but was passed over for Kimi Raikkonen.

He was first choice for Lotus, but with delays to the mysterious investor deal from Quantum, Lotus had to take Pastor Maldonado and his Venezuelan oil company backing.

Key to Hulkenberg’s decision then was the timing and the risk of being left on the sidelines.

“I am happy to be back,” the 26 year old said. “I had to take a decision not to be left out, or left without a seat and Force India, I really felt they wanted me. They were able to answer the questions and give me the info I needed, different to other people. I have trust in this team that they will put something together that will allow us to have some special results.”

The interesting thing about today’s announcement is that the team has not mentioned who the second driver will be. This is not normal Force India practice. The Anglo-Indian team’s usual strategy is to leave it until after the end of the season and wait for the best available drivers to come to them, then announce both drivers at the same time.

Until this year, they also had an active third driver, whom they groomed via a regular Friday morning test programme. Jules Bianchi performed this role in 2012, Hulkenberg in 2011 and Paul di Resta before that.

This did not happen much in 2013, until James Calado got some late season outings, but with more opportunity on Fridays and four two day test sessions in 2014, there is a nice opportunity for a young driver to be placed there and for Force India to make some useful money from that seat.

The identity of the second driver will be revealed in due course. Hulkenberg said today that he has not been given any indication of what that will be, only the candidates; most people expect Sergio Perez to get the nod, but today’s announcement shows that there is still room for negotiation. Current incumbent Adrian Sutil has been courting Sauber, while di Resta said on Sunday night at the Autosport Awards that it was looking difficult for him to stay in F1 next year.

Sauber’s team principal Monisha Kaltenborn paid tribute to Hulkenberg as he left her team, “After an overall difficult season in 2013 Nico leaves our team. Especially the first half of the season did not turn out as both parties expected it would. However during the second half of the season we made significant progress together and worked hard to move forward. Nico played an important role in that process. We would like to thank him for his dedication and hard work.

“Nico has proven to be a fast and efficient driver, who always used the full potential of the C32 in order to score as many championship points as possible. We wish him all the best for his future endeavours.”

There are six seats still available on the F1 Grid 2014.

Force India – One seat
Sauber – Two seats
Caterham – Two seats
Marussia – One seat

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From a racers point of view, and going on past performances, then it has to be Hulk VS di Resta at Force India. For me this is the best pairing, their driving styles are close and they would surely bank the most points for FI.

Sutil VS Perez at Sauber would be a closer talent match and would provide less consistent but entertaining racing. Sauber also appear more desperate for cash! Perez simply makes too many mistakes and has been very lacklustre in 2013 and the 2012 races since signing for McLaren. He was also flattered by the Sauber somehow unlocking amazing speed at Monza 12 and at the race he should have passed Alonso but spun.

Quite amazing just how many petty views there are on here regarding Paul di Resta supposedly moaning or being overly critical of the team. Who cares when he is the best and fastest guy left without a seat!

Paul showed a bit of spirit to drive the team forward over the radio, after, it has to be said, some very poor strategic calls at times. It was no worse than Hulk rightly being a bit critical of Sauber at the start of the year and certainly nowhere near Perez and Button’s moans, Maldo’s self destruct, Hammys radio calls and he didn’t ever ask for ‘someone else’s car’ like Alonso 😉

Maybe it has been highlighted more as Force India took the worst hit in the mid-season tyre change.

In general though, isn’t it more entertaining to hear a driver pushing on a team rather than the usual stale boring PR guff about thanking the team, engine manufacturer, oil provider, sponsors, etc etc zzzzzz.

It’s also a bit sad to see that Hulk has to sign a multi-year deal. Ok, he may get to go to a good team in ’15 but again talent doesn’t matter as much as it should.

Ultimately though, alongside Hulk we will see if money trumps talent for Vijay Mallya…


So no more Moany MacGoo to complain about the team, or the tires, or the weather, or another driver…

Can’t say I’m surprised that no one wants a ray of sunshine like Paul in one of their cars.


James it is so frustrating and infuriating to see great drivers like The Hulk ending up in drives like that, while Maldonado cashes in on seats like Lotus! The scalps at F1 have to make sure that the teams receive enough money from the commercial rights to ensure they can afford the drivers they deserve and that drivers get the seats they deserve! Maldonado in a Lotus and Hulk in a Force India! Preposterous!


So Eddie Jordan has been right on ALL that he has said this year (and previous few?)

Schumacher to Merc

Hamilton to Merc

Maldonado to Lotus

Hulk to FI

Brawn leaving Merc

How does he do it!! I hope he writes a book..


This SFI-F1 team is starting to really grow on me. They are a robust and compact team who stay within their limits. I have never heard FI running around pulling their hair out saying F1 is too costly (DUH!). Even when the Sahara deal was done, it was relatively smooth and straight forward according to F1 standards. They are definitely doing better than Midland and Spyker (their previous avatars)and established themselves as a respected midfield team.

I never see their drivers crying foul over unpaid salaries and yet they have never felt the need of getting in paid drivers. They function within their budget (unlike Lotus) and set their aims accordingly.

What I really like is the quality of drivers they have had. They have arguably had, the stongest (non world champion)drivers line up in the recent years.

Sutil, Fisichella, Liuzzi, PdR, Hulkenberg and additionally giving development opportunities to PdR, Hulkenberg and Jules Bianchi. As most would agree, this is a very stong bunch of well respected drivers and maybe even some future stars given the right machinery.

They were the Hulk’s saviour in 2011 after the Williams fiasco.

One more fact is that Mallya has always categorically stated that he won’t stand in the way of any of his driver, especially if a big team like Ferarri or Macca came calling. Yes there is always some money involved and this is a business after all but he was true to his word with Fisichella and promised something in that lines when PDR was in contention for other seats.

Ok I re-read what I wrote and it seems I am already a Fan.


driver who brings a sponsor = paid driver

and deluded fan hate.

Of couse you could sigh some hot shot from east beldovia that just won f3 and find nobodies interested in sponsoring you cos they dont sell many widgets in east beldovia

At least the fans will give you plucky shoestring oufit the thumbs up every race while secretly not giving a stuff if you survive the season.

If you think about it maldonado and his sponsors were let down by williams who seem to struggle to make a decent car anymore. They have a right to take the cash somewhere it may do some good.

Yes i know this is Hulkenberg thread but if perez arrives as well just think it through.

Adrian Newey Jnr

well said.


My tip is it will be a case of Perez goes back to Sauber as it is by far his best option of developing for the future after his backward step from Mclaren and it will pose as a more likely route back into a top team if he gets it right ie Ferrari, as if he fails to impact at Force India his F1 time is likely to be up and of course he will be wary of the likely fact Hulk is better which will clearly show up within the same team, Force India seat 2 well after his silly season of critisising the team and car let’s just hope Paul has had the sense to offer his services to drive the car salary free for this season i don’t believe Sutil has a chance in hell of retaining his seat think he has now fell into a lower team development/race day driver for lower teams with the ammount of quality/pay drivers here now.


What a curious sport… Hulk’s situation potentially a symptom of dis-function in the sport that may turn serious?

1 driver position at RBR

1 driver position at Lotus

1 driver position at McLaren

1 driver position at Ferrari

If Hulk is so good (and btw I’m not saying he isn’t)then how come he can’t score one of these seats?

If Hulk is so good (and I would have thought, highly marketable) then why is he not attracting the sponsorship like other drivers that he could then bring to a team.

If the sport is so successfully managed, with countries lining up to be part of the calendar, why is it that the 4th and 7th team in the WCC were technically insolvent through the 2013 season and the team that finished 10th is looking to merge?

If the sponsorship pool is growing (as per an earlier article this year) how can the only team able to take it to RBR with possibly the most marketable driver, not be able to secure a reputable sponsor or pay their bills?

If the sport is so successfully managed & if the sponsorship pool is so good, why doesn’t the sponsorship go straight to the teams, but instead to the (pay) drivers?

If the sport is so successfully managed, how can the owning parties of F1 take such enormous amounts of money out of the company and expect it to stay in a healthy state to float?

If the sport is so managed, how can it remain in any form of healthy state over the next decade?

I hope for the best but fear a lost decade. Good luck Hulk.

Adrian Newey Jnr

Some great points. I have been asking the same questions about sponsorship. In particular why teams like Lotus are struggling to attract sponsors despite getting podiums.

The natural targets of the teams should be global Fortune 500 style companies, but the field has very few of them. This suggests to me that outside of a few billionaire owners, F1 marketing still has a long way to go to prove to those with the marketing funds that its a worthwhile opportunity. I suspect that there is a perception that the viewing figures are being cooked and all money is going online instead.

Scuderia McLaren

“…but with delays to the mysterious investor deal from Quantum…”

My favourite line from the article. A masterful display of avoiding libel, yet communicating something without saying it.

Yet as a commenter I can say it James and I will do you a favour. This should really say, “…but with continued spurious claims of international transactory delays espoused by a figure who is proven to historically lack credibility in many dealings of this nature, it seems Lotus have realised that they have been duped in their desperation and went with oil money from Crashtor Maldonado’s Venezuelan Oil backers.”

I much prefer my version James. 😀


As do i, but i do not prefer the outcome Crashtor should not be promoted above Yuji Ide, Let alone Nico Hulkenburg!


The paid driver concept is basically very annoying and keeps the best talent from ever being seen. Would the world have ever heard of the name ‘Usain Bolt’ if the cost of entry in Athletics had been on a par with F1?

It sounds like Hulk has been very unlucky and should really be driving a better car than the Force India he’ll be pottering around in next season. Still, I’m sure the pay checks, the hot girls and the odd glass of Krug in Monaco next May will more than compensate for his loss.

Adrian Newey Jnr

Only the relatively wealthy (or those from wealthy countries with scholarships) could afford to train 24/7 to compete. So athletics isn’t really any different. Whats to say there isn’t someone faster in some remote town in Africa, etc?


Shucks! The pay driver thingy have messed up the talented drivers like Hulk. It’s a huge set back for F1 in the past few years. I really wonder without Kimi, Alonso, Vettel and Hamilton what will F1 be really like, of course there will be new stars but how exciting will it be? Many will find Vettel not exciting though which is not the case for me. We shall see.

Pastor M should be out IMHHO, but his win in Spain 2012 will be continuously repeated. He sure drives like an unlicensed taxi driver. Never did we hear him apologize for his countless mistakes. Then again, cash is king.


His win came at a time when before F1 had settled down into the new tyre requirements and it seemed like luck of the draw at times.

You are correct – too much emphasis has been placed on that win in relation too his numeours mistakes.

Taking money out the equation then the order of talent is as follows:

1) Sutil

2) Di Rester

3) Perez

4) Maldonaldo

And it tools like 3) and 4) are will get to the avaialble seats instead of 1) and 2). Well 4) has been confirmed at Lotus already, of course.

Adrian Newey Jnr

Putting on my tin foil hat, Bernie and Frank have always been close. Given the difficulties of the Williams team, it might be possible that Bernie arranged for a good showing by the car at one race so that the Williams team could survive financially at a crucial point? In return Frank supports the F1 float and Concord agreement negotiations?


Force India fan here!! With out a doubt we have signed the best driver we possiblely could have, and someone who I rate among the best in F1. I would argue he is stronger than the drivers McLaren have, but I will admit I don’t know to much about their new driver.

Welcome back Nico, over the moon to have you, but I will admit you deserved one of the top drives next season, just hope we can spring a surprise and give you a great car. Also, if you leave us in 2015, I just hope it’s for the drive you truly deserve, you are my favourite driver on the grid!!!


Who is Nico Hulkenberg’s manager?


Does your post imply that he should get a new one then?


Now it’s Werner Heinz. He has changed a few times


57 times, by any chance? 😉


The manager question is an interesting twist as the drivers scurry around looking for available seats before the music ends. Paul di Resta is in legal dispute with his ex manager, Hamilton. I was wondering if a list of drivers and managers/agents could be listed? I am not sure if there is a strong connection between seats and managers versus seats and paying sponsors but it would be good to see.


I think Whitmarsh dropped the ball here by not grabbing the Hulk how much more does the boy have to do than dragging a Williams to pole and running top 5 for 2nd half of the season in that Sauber.

He deserves a run in a top team !


Not looking good for Paul. It’s shocking state to F1 when good drivers are fighting over each other for seats and the pay drivers are banking the best ones.


Even more so since the new Lotus driver was only too recently accusing his team of cheating and nobbling his car. Even Paul and his ranting never went that far.


As with most people ive become very impressed with Nico Hulkenberg and he is the driver ive had the most pleasure of watching this season. I dont mean this disrespectfully but its a shame he has ended up back at Force India as he more than deserved to be driving for one of the top teams and has been very unlucky in that Lotus need the money so have had to take Maldonado and Mclaren were worried about weight issue so have taken Magnussen!

Nevertheless I look forward to Nico continuing to take on the big teams and top drivers and outperform them at times next season.


…if I were Ferrari I wouldn’t pay just to avoid Hulk sitting on a Lotus… I would make him also sign an option as driver to be exercised in the next three years if one of the two current drivers leaves… meantime park him at FI to gather more info on the powertrain… just sayin…


All this engine talk is silly. It is well documented that the Mercedes engine is bulletproof, 100% efficient, and 1000 bhp more than the nearest challenger.


you forgot the warp drive, the nitrous boost, the phenomenal exhaust system that will glue the car to the ground and the go faster stripes! don’t tell anyone but I also heard that it consumes less 133% of fuel when compared to nearest rivals 🙂


If I was Mc Learen as soon as Button’s contract was up, I would put the Hulk in his seat. Jensen belongs in Hulks seat and vice versa.

Although, it’s going to be fun watching Jensen using all his skills trying to unsettle the new young guy and I’m not talking about his driving skills.


It’s McLaren and jenson, ffs, fans and can’t get such simple things right…


My lack of spelling doesn’t make the statement any less true.


As Sky confirmed, Calado paid to be third driver, so there’s every chance he will stay there.


did I dream it or did anyone else hear Helmut Marko say ‘we want a driver like Hulenberg’ when he was talking about Red Bull a while back?



Dream, definitely 🙂


Given his luck to date, Force India will be slower / less reliable than Sauber in 2014!

2012 Hulk in FI. Sauber was quicker than FI in 2012.

2013 Hulk moves to Sauber. FI quicker than Sauber for 2/3rds of the season.

2014 Hulk moves back to F1. . . . .

Adrian Newey Jnr

I suspect it also has something to do with financial stability in the current era.


hope he gets paid at least. is it true that FI had to provide Hulk w/ a bank guarantee confirming that monies were available on top of those required for the 2014 campaign to pay his back FI wages (1.2-1.3 million?)?


Probably the best choice available. Force India seem to be financially stable, they have been among the best mid field teams in recent years and he already knows what to expect from the environment. You can’t go wrong with that.


Summed it up perfectly.


How come Paul Di Resta lost out on the musical chairs… beating Vettel in F3 does certainly mean he had some talent…. atleast he could have had a career like DC.

Adrian Newey Jnr

James – Could you shed some light on why Di Resta has never attracted the attention of the Tier-1 team principals?


Maybe, it’s because he’s not that good.


That has to be the most cliched talking point in all of F1. Let’s set aside the fact that Vettel beat PDR in F3 the previous season, or that in 2006 Vettel was dividing his efforts between F3, F3.5, and flying around the world to test drive in F1.

In 2006 Hamilton barely edged out Nelson Piquet Jr to the GP2 title in the last contest. That should mean that Piquet could at least have had a career like Coulthard, but instead he had a brief stint in F1 notable only for his role in Crashgate.

In 1983 Ayrton Senna won the British F3 championship in the final race of the season after battling with Martin Brundle all season. Senna went on to become at the time the winningest F1 driver of all time, while Brundle had a long F1 career without a single victory.

Alonso had an unusually poor record in junior racing categories, being beaten by, among others, a certain Mr Webber.

The point being, the only way to tell how a driver will do in F1 is to put him in an F1 car and see how he does in F1. A drivers record in junior categories has weak predictive power.

PDR’s biggest enemy is his own personality. He has none of Vettel’s accomplishments yet has twenty times the arrogance and entitlement. He’s made it clear he feels he’s too good for his team, so he can hardly complain if his team bids him farewell.


Veey true what you said, also Hamilton’s first season in F3 was also lacklusture, then you get drivers like Glock, Maldonado, and Kovalainen winning GP2 but look at the state of them in the end!!! The fact is apart from Vettel, Alonso and Hulkenberg the only other driver of the current generation that has shone was Webber I just believe his speed was unbelievable even faster than Alonso.


Heikki never won GP2, he was 2nd to Rosberg.

Your crusade to pump Webber’s tires is just odd. With the best car he was frequently out-qualified by Hamilton. At least when Button found himself in the best car, he wrung the results out of it.

Alonso is faster than Webber, and Hamilton’s faster than Alonso.

As for Hamilton in F3 in 2004, he was with Manor. In 2005 he was with ART, the best team, and won 15 of 20 races. The same team Vettel and Di Resta were at in 2006.


In 2005 Vettel and Di Resta were not in the same team; in 2006 they were. That’s where the comparison between them is more valid. The whole divided attention angle for Vettel is excuses, he was behind PDR on weekends where he had nothing else.

Another F1 comparison between former teammates is Sutil to Hamilton in 2005.

Agreed about PDR’s attitude, it sucks.


Think you might want to go and look again alonso junior record, say karting where all is equal 🙂


A few reporters have suggested DiResta is seen in a negative light as grumpy and complaining. Once you’ve got a reputation in F1 it seems to take a big positive performance (pole, podium or win) to break the cycle of dislike. Sadly DiResta hasn’t had the stunning results to offset his perceived lack of team inspiration.

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