Nico Hulkenberg has reportedly agreed to a two-year deal with French manufacturer Renault for the 2017 season.
The German is understood to have signed an agreement which will see him through until the end of the 2018 season, with the option of a contract extension for 2019.
While Hulkenberg may have agreed to the deal offered to him by Renault, his current team, Force India, still has to sign off on releasing the 29-year-old from his current contract.
This shouldn’t be too much of an issue, however, as team principal Bob Fernley has previously stated that he wouldn’t get in the way of Hulkenberg leaving the team.
The two questions now are who will fill the vacant seat at Force India, and who will line up alongside Hulkenberg at Renault.
There are many names floating around who will land the second Renault seat, as current driver Kevin Magnussen still awaits news on a contract extension, with the Dane giving Renault two weeks before looking elsewhere for a drive.
A leading contender is former reserve driver and current Manor driver Esteban Ocon. The 20-year-old Frenchman is rated highly in the Enstone squad and has had previous experience with the team having spent the first half of 2016 as their reserve.
Although it may be a dream choice to have a French driver racing for a French manufacturer, Ocon is still part of the Mercedes junior driver program, and is now poised to fill the seat left by Hulkenberg at Force India.
Since the Silverstone-based team currently use Mercedes engines, it makes sense to hire Ocon and give him more experience within the Mercedes family.
For Renault, it’s understood that Magnussen leads the race to renew his contract and partner Hulkenberg. However, Valtteri Bottas is also in frame for the second seat if Williams fail to offer him a contract extension.
Image via Sahara Force India