Jun.22 (GMM/Inautonews.com) Nico Hulkenberg has earned a place at a top team.

That is the view of F1 legend Niki Lauda, referring to the Force India driver who recently made international headlines by winning Le Mans on debut.

Back in F1, however, German Hulkenberg drives only for Force India, where in Austria he qualified an impressive 11 places ahead of his teammate Sergio Perez.

“The guy is really good,” Lauda, who doubles as Mercedes’ team chairman, told German television RTL. “I’ve known that for a long time.”

Lauda said Hulkenberg, 27, clearly deserves a “better car” than the Force India.

It is believed Hulkenberg, who is yet to score a single podium in F1, is out of contract at the end of 2015. He has been tentatively linked with Ferrari.

“Of course he has earned a place in a top car,” Lauda insisted. “No discussion!

“He has to fight for that. I do not know what will happen with Kimi (Raikkonen) — maybe there will be a place at Ferrari but there are also others who are good. (Valtteri) Bottas for example,” he added.