Perez caught off guard by Hulkenberg departure


World © Octane Photographic Ltd. Sahara Force India VJM09 - Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg. Thursday 24th November 2016, F1 Abu Dhabi GP - Paddock, Yas Marina circuit, Abu Dhabi

Sahara Force India F1 Team driver Sergio Perez says he was shocked to hear the news that Nico Hulkenberg was leaving the squad to join the Renault Sport Formula 1 Team.

Perez had himself been linked with a move to the Enstone based squad earlier in the season, but as talks to strike a deal took longer than anticipated, the Mexican eventually confirmed he would be remaining at Force India for another year.

Hulkenberg meanwhile took up the opportunity to head to new horizons, and was announced as Renault’s new driver shortly after, an announcement Perez was not really expecting, as he explained to Autosport.com recently.

“To be honest I was quite stunned about it.

“I knew Nico was very high on their list and I knew if I didn’t go there they’d definitely look at him. They are taking a great driver.

“When he went, only time will tell who took the right decision but yeah I’m happy with the three seasons that I had together with him.”

Force India immediately drafted in highly rated-rated youngster Esteban Ocon as the German’s replacement, which saw the three-year long partnership of Perez and Hulkenberg at the Silverstone based squad, come to an end.

“We spent three years working together and they really went quick. I think we learned a lot from each other.

“It’s time for Nico to move on to a new challenge. Nico had been longer than myself in the team, so he probably felt the need to work with new people, something different, to learn new things.

“It was great to learn so many things from Nico.”

It will be interesting to see who of the pair is more successful in 2017. Hulkenberg has form for often choosing the wrong career path, but perhaps the German’s luck is about to change.

Force India are a team on the up, having secured their best ever finish of fourth last year, and there is no reason why they should not continue with similar success in 2017, whilst Renault are still adjusting to life as a constructor, and have just lost Team Principal Frederic Vasseur, who had been considered a linchpin in the Enstone based squads organisation. Whether Renault have what it takes to up the ante this year is debatable, but long-term a company of their size and stature will not be held back forever.