Nico Hulkenberg's Force India exit for Renault backed by the F1 Report
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Last Updated: 24/10/16 2:21pm
Nico Hulkenberg's move from high-flying Force India to struggling Renault is a gamble worth taking, according to this week's F1 Report.
But while Maurice Hamilton and Marc Priestley have applauded Hulkenberg for his surprise switch, the pair have warned that both Jolyon Palmer and Kevin Magnussen are likely to be dropped for an all-new line-up at Renault in 2017.
Hulkenberg's decision to leave Force India, currently ahead of Williams and McLaren in the Constructors' Championship, for Renault, who have scored just eight points this term, could easily be mistaken for a backwards step.
But speaking on the F1 Report, which will air at 8.30pm on Wednesday night on Sky F1, Priestley argued: "By heading to a manufacturer team, Nico will have more chance of success. Force India punch above their weight but are they ever going to be world champions? Probably not."
"I think it's a sensible move," agreed Hamilton. "Nico is obviously thinking long term and Renault have a lot of potential. Nico is no fool."
But Hulkenberg's move to Renault, who are understood to have also approached Carlos Sainz, Valtteri Bottas and Sergio Perez about a 2017 drive, has increased the likelihood Palmer and Magnussen will be dropped at the end of the year.
"The reality is that it's probably not going to be either of the two drivers who are there now alongside Nico," predicted Priestley. "I think it's going to be Esteban Ocon. Mercedes will be looking to move him up the grid and a Frenchman at a French team looks like the perfect fit."
Ocon's promotion from Manor would be a heavy blow to Magnussen who was axed after his maiden season in F1 with McLaren in 2014 and who has already been linked with a switch to IndyCar next year.
"This is the way of F1," said Hamilton. "How many times have we seen it with a guy who is nearly there but not quite? Kevin Magnussen is hugely talented but it hasn't come right. Jolyon Palmer made a big mistake in Hungary but it's come together for him in the last few races but is it too late? We are talking about Formula 1 where you need to see that little bit extra and I don't think we're seeing it."
Meanwhile, both Maurice and Mark have had their say on Lewis Hamilton's media boycott at the Japanese GP after the Mercedes driver angered the press pack by using Snapchat during Thursday's press conference.
"My initial feeling was sadness. I just thought 'Lewis, why are you doing this?'," said Hamilton.
"I know from working with him at McLaren that he is emotional, that he is up and down," added Priestley. "When he was driving for us we used to say that there was more lap time in keeping him and Nicole together than there was with anything we could do with the car!"