Esteban Ocon will partner Sergio Perez as Nico Hulkenberg’s replacement at Force India for the 2017 season.
The young Frenchman currently drives for backmarkers Manor but will move up the grid to replace the Renault-bound Hulkenberg next year. Pascal Wehrlein, Jolyon Palmer – ultimately retained by Renault – and Felipe Nasr were also on Force India’s shortlist, but it was Ocon who got the nod to partner Sergio Perez.
“He’s an exceptional talent, as his status as a Mercedes junior demonstrates, and I have no doubt he will flourish inside our team. We’ve had our eye on Esteban for a number of years and have followed his progress through the junior categories where he delivered outstanding results. We ran him in the car last year during testing and his performance convinced us that he is more than capable of racing alongside Sergio.”
-Vijay Mallya, Force India team principal
A former European F3 and GP3 champion, Mercedes development driver Ocon is delighted to be getting his first full season with a competitive team.
“I’m very excited to join Sahara Force India. I know the team quite well already because I was a test driver last year and I’m really looking forward to working with everybody at Silverstone once again. I’m still relatively new to Formula One, but spending half a season at Manor Racing has given me some valuable experience and I feel ready for this new opportunity with Sahara Force India. The next few months will be very busy as I do all I can to prepare for the challenge ahead of me. It means lots of days at the factory, working on the simulator and building relationships with the engineers and everybody in the team. It’s something I’ve been working towards my whole life and I intend to grab this opportunity with both hands so that I can deliver the results the team expects from me.
I want to say ‘thank you’ to everybody at Manor and especially to Mercedes-Benz for their support and belief in me. I can’t wait for 2017 and my first full season racing in Formula One.”
Ocon represented Force India in last year’s in-season tests and has also sampled F1 machinery with Mercedes and Renault, making four FP1 appearances with the latter in the first half of this season. He made his race debut with Manor at the Belgian Grand Prix, replacing Rio Haryanto.
Force India have described Ocon’s deal as a ‘multi-year contract’ and his partnership with Perez as ‘one of the most exciting line-ups on the grid with a blend of youth and experience’.