Date: 19th December 2013 at 9:07am
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Team Principal of Force India Vijay Mallya has revealed that he offered Nico Hulkenberg a return to the team nine months ago.

At that stage of the season, Hulkenberg would have been just weeks into his new drive with Sauber after the German had opted to leave Force India for the Swiss team.

Now just nine months on, after being so close to joining Ferrari and Lotus during the season Hulkenberg has now elected to return to Force India, something that Mallya is very pleased with.

I?ve always had my eye on Nico Hulkenberg. I told him as early as Malaysia, ?Nico, if you decide to change from Sauber you better come back home.? He said, ?Alright, I promise you. If I decide to change, my first option will be with you?. He stuck to his word – he told me he wanted to move and I said fine. Mallya told formula1.com.

The Force India bosses recollection of the events is of course a romantic one. Ignoring the fact that Hulkenberg had been in line to replace Felipe Massa at Ferrari for next season had Kimi Raikkonen not made the decision to leave Lotus, to return to the team that gave him his only F1 title in 2007.

The German driver, who is of course one of the most highly rated in the paddock, had then been the first choice option for the vacant Lotus seat. But with the Quantum Motorsports deal dragging on Lotus didn’t want to give up on the chance of the investment that signing Pastor Maldonado brings to the team. So, Lotus opted to blink first securing Venezuelan Maldonado and the reported £30million-a-season in sponsorship from state oil company PDVSA.

With Maldonado taking the Lotus drive, that left Hulkenberg with an option to stick or twist with contracts on the table to return to Force India or to stay with Sauber.

‘Yes, I?m sure Nico talked to other teams, but at the end of the day, true to his word, I signed him up. I recently read in Autosport magazine that all of the team principals in F1 voted Nico the seventh best driver in the sport – that?s a huge compliment. I feel happy because he?s driving for me. I could have retained either one of our existing drivers, but at the end of the day we?ve had long relationships with both, including Adrian Sutil who had a one-year break but came back to us. I consulted my other team members and they all said that we?ve got a new car and a new set of regulations, so let?s get a new set of drivers who have got fire in their bellies and are really hungry. Sergio [Perez] and Nico fit that bill.

Hulkenberg’s contract is a multi-year deal, although it is thought that the German will have secured some get out clauses if a drive at the likes of Ferrari come about beyond 2014.