Force India has confirmed Nico Hulkenberg will leave the team at the end of the season, with the German set to join Renault in 2017.
Hulkenberg emerged as a serious target for Renault during the Japanese Grand Prix weekend, with Force India's Bob Fernley suggesting the team would not stand in the German's way if he were to request a move. Force India team principal Vijay Mallya has now confirmed Hulkenberg will be released from his contract in order to join Renault next season.
“Everybody at Sahara Force India wishes Nico well as he embarks upon a different path in Formula One," Mallya said. "Having spent five years with us, Nico has become a great friend and contributed a huge amount to the team’s success. He’s an outstanding driver, who has scored more points for this team than anybody else. While it’s true we will miss Nico, we respect his decision to explore fresh opportunities and it would be wrong to stand in his way.”
Hulkenberg started his career with Williams in 2010 and has been at Force India for four of the past five seasons, moving to Sauber for a year in 2013. Despite 111 race starts, the 2015 Le Mans winner - who has one pole position to his name - has yet to finish on the podium. He has scored 271 points for Force India in his time with the team so far.
The German's team-mate at Renault is still to be confirmed, with current race drivers Kevin Magnussen and Jolyon Palmer in the frame, while Esteban Ocon has been heavily linked with a seat at the team where he was reserve driver earlier this year.
Force India is now expected to turn its attentions to both Ocon and Manor team-mate Pascal Wehrlein, with the Mercedes-backed drivers yet to be confirmed for 2017.