Nico Hulkenberg has signed a one-year deal to return to Force India next year, Germany’s authoritative Auto Motor und Sport reports from Brazil.

Nico_Hulkenberg-Brazilian_GP-Q02Correspondent Michael Schmidt said the 26-year-old German’s deal includes ‘options’ beyond 2014, but the news would tie in with rumours Hulkenberg is first in line for a Ferrari drive should Fernando Alonso jump ship for 2015. “The deal should be announced in the next few days, and maybe right after the Brazilian grand prix,” said Schmidt.

It is expected that Hulkenberg’s teammate next year will be Force India incumbent Adrian Sutil. The German has been hinting for weeks that he is staying put at the Silverstone based team. “I know it already but I will not say it,” the smiling Sutil told the German broadcaster RTL at Interlagos. “I have had a contract for months, and it is signed. I don’t want to confirm it officially, because the team has a rule that you cannot publicly discuss contractual situations. “But I will definitely be back next year,” the 30-year-old revealed.

Complicating the issue for Force India, however, is the presence on the market of the powerful sponsored drivers Pastor Maldonado and Sergio Perez. Lotus is the most competitive team with a driver vacancy for 2014, but that team is grappling with the ‘will-it-or-won’t-it’ arrival of crucial investment from the Quantum group. So, along with Force India, Sauber is next in the queue for the pick of the remaining drivers on the 2014 market, and rumours say the Swiss team is in serious talks with both Maldonado and the McLaren refugee Perez.

Sauber boss Monisha Kaltenborn said the driver decision will be made “soon”. “Maybe in the coming week,” she told RTL at Interlagos. In the meantime, Maldonado’s reportedly EUR 40 million in Venezuelan backing, and Perez’s EUR 15 million from Mexico, will speak loudly. Maldonado, however, thinks he is worth signing up for his talent alone. “I think I would be champion at Red Bull,” the departing Williams driver is quoted by Brazil’s Totalrace. Maldonado is also quoted as saying by the EFE news agency: “Of the available drivers on the market, I’m the only one who has won a race. “The only thing I know,” Marca sports newspaper quoted Maldonado as saying, “is that I will be in formula one next year, 100 per cent.”

Info: GMM, Image: Sauber