Esteban Ocon has today been confirmed as the second Sahara Force India F1 Team driver, to complete the Silverstone based squad’s line-up for 2017 alongside long-standing member Sergio Perez.
The Frenchman has signed a multi-year contract with Force India, a team he knows well having been test driver for the squad in 2015, and is now ready to take on the challenge as their full-time driver.
“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 only made his debut in F1 with Manor Racing MRT this year, after taking over from Rio Haryanto mid-way through the season, when the Indonesian driver was no longer able to fulfil his contract in terms of the sponsorship arrangement he had in place with the Banbury based squad.
The 20-year-old has performed well so far against team-mate Pascal Wehrlein, also a much rated F1 talent, and is beginning to show his potential, bridging the gap to the German with every race, and already managing to out qualify and finishing ahead of him in Japan.
Ocon has been on the radar of many F1 teams for some time, he is part of the Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team junior programme and won the European F3 championship in 2014, beating Max Verstappen to the spoils.
The Frenchman moved up to the GP3 Series the following year, and took the crown there on his debut too, so the talent the young Frenchman has to offer cannot be denied. In 2016 he moved to DTM with Mercedes alongside a role as Reserve driver to the Renault Sport F1 Team, before being snapped up by Manor after the German Grand Prix, and making his debut in Belgium, back in August.
Team Principal of Force India, Vijay Mallya, was one such person to have his eye on the Frenchman, and expressed his delight at having signed the 20-year-old, who he believes will bring an extra boost to the team.
“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.”