Former One Direction member Zayn Malik has taken to Twitter to congratulate his former bandmates on their new single Drag Me Down.

Malik, who left the group in March, took to the social networking site on Saturday to praise the foursome on their first single without him, posting: "Proud of my boys the new single is sick. Big love. :) x."

One Direction surprised fans on Friday morning with the track by releasing it on iTunes and Spotify at 6:30am.

The group's record label, Sony, claims that the song "showcases a more mature One Direction sound".

The single is the first from One Direction's fifth album, which is due for release in November.

Malik recently revealed that he wants to show fans who he really is with his brand new record deal.

On Thursday he tweeted about his new deal with RCA Records, saying he left the boyband so he could make music that represents who he is as a person.

He posted a black and white picture of himself grinning widely as he signed his deal, and tweeted: "I guess I never explained why I left , it was for this moment to be given the opportunity to show you who i really am! #realmusic #RCA !! ... #REALME (sic)"

Justin Timberlake, Foo Fighters, Christina Aguilera, Alicia Keys, Britney Spears and Kelly Clarkson are among the high-profile names signed to the record label which is part of Sony Music Entertainment.