Force India agrees to release Hulkenberg ahead of Renault switch

The path is clear for Nico Hulkenberg to switch to Renault next year after Force India confirmed he will leave its team at the end of the current season.

The news of the switch first surfaced at the Japanese Grand Prix weekend and is now being reported in detail by German newspaper Bild. Following several articles linking Hulkenberg to Renault this week, Force India issued a statement confirming the German is set to leave its team after the final round of the season in Abu Dhabi.

"Everybody at Sahara Force India wishes Nico well as he embarks upon a different path in Formula One," team boss Vijay 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."

Renault is working on a five-year plan to return to the front of the grid and has said previously it is looking for a Michael Schumacher-style driver to rally its troops. The news follows months of speculation that Hulkenberg's current teammate Sergio Perez would make the switch, but that ended two weeks ago when the Mexican finally confirmed he would remain at Force India.

Hulkenberg hinted at the Renault deal in a tweet, where he screengrabbed the Bild article only to make reference to the football fixtures further down the page.

Hulkenberg's switch opens up a place at Force India, which is likely to be filled by either Pascal Wehrlein or Esteban Ocon -- current Manor drivers who are both backed by power unit supplier Mercedes. Hulkenberg's arrival at Renault also puts added pressure on current drivers Kevin Magnussen and Jolyon Palmer, who are both hoping to stay for a second year at the team in 2017.