Nico Hulkenberg says Force India's lack of budget and squad size compared to the likes of Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull means the team will struggle to trump its 2016 F1 campaign in the future.
The Renault-bound driver helped Force India to its best-ever F1 season finishing fourth in the world constructors' championship, while Hulkenberg enjoyed equalling his own best year in the sport by finishing ninth in the drivers' standings.
While Sergio Perez feels Force India can continue to progress and potentially target the top three in 2017, Hulkenberg says it will be 'very difficult' for the Silverstone-based squad to close up to the likes of Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull without backing from a manufacturer or additional outside financial help.
“It is difficult to predict. To move on further, to close the gap in terms of being in the mix with the top three teams, it's very difficult,” Hulkenberg said. “I think they would need a bit more budget, more resources.
“I think the people are there, we have a very good team in place here at the track but also back at the factory so I think that wouldn't stop it. It's a huge challenge and it's not easy.”
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That thinking was part of the key reasons behind Hulkenberg's switch to Renault in 2017 with the German driver putting faith in the French manufacturer's long term goal of returning to the top table in F1.
Reflecting on his final season with Force India, the former Le Mans 24 Hours winner is pleased with his consistency, having scored points in 14 out of 21 races, but laments the near-misses at Monaco and Spa of a maiden F1 podium.
“There's a few cases for sure where things happened and we were just unlucky,” he said. “Don't know why. But it's not that I think about it and cry like 'I'm always the unlucky one', it's just life. Hopefully it returns the other way, a favour in the next few years.”
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Hulkenberg joins Jolyon Palmer at Renault in 2017 while Esteban Ocon takes up the second race seat at Force India alongside Sergio Perez.
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