Force India confirmed today that Mercedes Development Driver Esteban Ocon will be joining the team for 2017.
The French driver had been linked to the second Renault seat, which was later taken by Jolyon Palmer, given he was appointed as their official reserve driver this season. Following the sponsorship difficulties faced by Rio Haryanto, he joined Manor for the second half of this season, where he has performed well against more seasoned Mercedes driver Pascal Wehrlein.
He will be joining the team on a ‘multi-year’ deal and drive alongside Sergio Perez in 2017, which was confirmed by team owner Dr Vijay Mallya: “It’s a pleasure to welcome Esteban as our new race driver. 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. Sahara Force India has a tradition of investing in young, talented drivers and the arrival of Esteban will bring some fresh energy and motivation to everyone in the team.”
Ocon said, “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.”
Current race driver at Force India, Nico Hulkenberg is making the switch to Renault next season to race alongside Jolyon Palmer.