Force India's Chief Operating Officer Otmar Szafnauer says Nico Hulkenberg deserves a shot with a manufacturer team in Formula 1 and believes neither he nor boss Vijay Mallya would stop the German driver from leaving in the future.

Hulkenberg got heads turning in the F1 paddock last year after winning the prestigious Le Mans 24 Hours alongside Nick Tandy and Earl Bamber, having received Force India's blessing to race for the Porsche LMP1 squad.

The 28-year-old also enjoyed another progressive season in F1 with Force India and had been linked with a potential switch to Ferrari while Kimi Raikkonen's future remained in doubt.

Despite missing out on a move to the Italian squad and opting to stick with the Silverstone-based team for a third consecutive season, Force India's Szafnauer feels Hulkenberg merits a chance with a factory and wouldn't attempt to block an opportunity if it appeared in 2016.

"An offer should come," Szafnauer said at the Autosport International show. "Vijay is a racer and it is his philosophy. If Nico were to get an offer from a top team I don't think Vijay would stand in his way. Should he get an offer? Yes, he is a big talent.

"It is a good thing that Nico did it [Le Mans]. The only consideration we had is that racing is dangerous and there was a risk Nico could injury himself. If that were to happen he is first and foremost our F1 driver and secondarily a sportscar driver. But it went well, he won the race and now will go down in history as an F1 driver who has won Le Mans."

Assessing Force India's chances ahead of the 2016 Formula 1 season, the former Honda F1 chief feels his team has a wonderful opportunity to build upon its best-ever campaign in the sport when it finished fifth in the constructors' championship but is expecting the competition to get tougher.

"If we can take the fight to some of the bigger teams like Red Bull Mercedes and Ferrari that would be fantastic," he said. "Not having a huge rule change will help and I think the entire grid will come closer together.

"Manor with the Mercedes powertrain and the Williams gearbox will become more competitive, Haas coming in for the first time with help from Ferrari will be competitive, Toro Rosso changing to Ferrari engines and having their drivers for a second year will make them more competitive and also having Renault as a manufacturer. The racing will be good."



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