SAO PAULO, Brazil – Another domino has fallen in the evolving Formula One silly season puzzle ahead of the 2017 campaign, with Sahara Force India confirming the signing of current Manor Racing driver Esteban Ocon on Thursday.
Ocon joins Force India on a multi-year contract, replacing the departing Nico Hulkenberg, who signed with Renault last month for next year’s World Championship season.
The 20-year-old Frenchman will pair with Mexico’s Sergio Perez in 2017.
“I’m very excited to join Sahara Force India. I know the team quite well already because I was a test driver (for them) last year and I’m really looking forward to working with everybody at Silverstone once again,” said Ocon. “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.”
A member of the Mercedes driver development program, Ocon began his driving career in karting in 2006, finishing eighth in the French Minime Championship. He won that series’ title the following year, also claiming championships in the French Cadet Championship and the French KF3 Series.
Ocon moved to single-seat Formula cars in 2012, spending two years in Formula Renault before moving to the European Formula Three (F3) class in 2014, where he won the championship with a race to spare after scoring nine wins and 15 poles in 33 races for Prema Powerteam.
The young Brazilian won last year’s GP3 Series title for ART Grand Prix and spent the first half of 2016 as a test driver for both Mercedes AMG Petronas and Renault.
Ocon made his Formula One debut during the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps and has raced in seven Grands Prix this season for Manor, after replacing Rio Haryanto, with a best finish of 16th in both Belgium and Malaysia.
His association with Force India goes back to 2015, when he was a test driver for the team.
“It’s a pleasure to welcome Esteban as our new race driver,” said team principal and managing director Vijay Mallya. “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.”
About the Writer
Jacob Seelman is the Managing Editor of Race Chaser Online and creator of the Motorsports Madness radio show, airing at 7 p.m. Eastern every Monday on the Performance Motorsports Network.
Seelman grew up in the sport, watching his grandparents co-own the RaDiUs Motorsports NASCAR Cup Series team in the 1990s.
The 22-year-old is currently studying Broadcast Journalism at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., and is also serving as both the full-time tour announcer for the Must See Racing Sprint Car Series and the co-track announcer at Millbridge Speedway.
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