Otmar Szafnauer says that the Sahara Force India F1 Team would release Esteban Ocon from his contract, should the Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team come calling.
The Frenchman has been one of the revelations of the 2017 season, and since making his debut in the Belgian Grand Prix in 2016, has yet to retire from a Grand Prix, a record that now extends to twenty-seven consecutive races.
Ocon joined Force India at the beginning of this season, and has scored points in all but one round, and is only nine points behind his vastly more experienced team-mate Sergio Perez with two races remaining in Brazil and Abu Dhabi.
However, Ocon remains part of the Mercedes-Benz driver development programme and Szafnauer, Chief Operating Officer at Force India, says it would not be right to prevent him joining Mercedes should the opportunity arise.
“He is a Mercedes driver,” said Szafnauer to Auto Motor und Sport. “Mercedes has financed his career and therefore they have a certain right to him.
“We would not want to deny him the chance to race in a top team for the world championship. We would release Esteban.”
Szafnauer admits Force India will be looking into bringing in a dedicated third driver in 2018 to prepare them for potentially replacing Ocon, with Daniil Kvyat amongst those likely to be considered for the role now he has been released from the Red Bull programme.
“We did it successfully with [Nico] Hülkenberg, [Paul] di Resta and [Vitantonio] Liuzzi,” said Szafnauer. “They all became regular drivers after a testing year.”