OCTOBER 6, 2016

Force India denies losing Hulkenberg to Renault

Force India team figures have played down suggestions they may lose Nico Hulkenberg to a rival team.

Nico Hulkenberg, Malaysian GP 2016
© Active Pictures

Force India team figures have played down suggestions they may lose Nico Hulkenberg to a rival team.

The Silverstone based outfit has finally ended rumours that Sergio Perez is set to switch to Renault, but now the Mexican's teammate Hulkenberg is being linked with the move.

Hulkenberg played down those rumours in Malaysia last weekend, and Force India has said previously that the German is already under contract for 2017.

Asked if a rival will poach Hulkenberg, sporting director Otmar Szafnauer now tells Auto Motor und Sport: "I don't think so."

Told, however, that Force India is yet to confirm Hulkenberg officially for 2017, he insisted: "We don't have to.

"Both drivers have contracts with us. In the case of Perez, we decided to simply stop the rumours so that the sponsors have clarity," Szafnauer added.

And when faced with the same rumours, team co-owner and boss Vijay Mallya told Germany's Bild newspaper: "We are very happy with him (Hulkenberg)."

Indeed, Hulkenberg may also be more than happy to stay, given that Force India is currently fourth in the constructors' championship, while Renault is ninth.

But another rumour is that Hulkenberg might actually be free to leave, because Force India has been late to pay him.

"I can assure you," said Szafnauer, "we pay all of our bills."

However, Mallya is unable to attend races amid his Indian legal troubles at present, and fellow team owner Subrata Roy is actually in jail.

But Szafnauer insisted: "Our major sponsors are not running away, and they have very strict compliance regulations, whether Mercedes, Diageo or NEC.

"Whether there are companies who shy away from us, I don't know."

One option for Force India might therefore be to sell Hulkenberg to Renault, and make even more money by taking on a well financed driver, like Lance Stroll.

"The money would be great right now," said Szafnauer, "but we always take the best drivers we can get on the market and we have been well served by that policy."