French Formula 1 driver Esteban Ocon, 20, has been confirmed as the man who will partner Sergio Perez at Force India next season. Ocon only joined the sport as a race driver for Manor after this year’s summer break in at the Belgian GP but he has impressed Vijay Mallya’s team enough for them to snap him up for 2017 and beyond on a “multi-year deal”.
There has been a seat free at the Silverstone-based team since it was announced that Nico Hulkenberg will join the Renault team for 2017 after spending the majority of his career so far at Force India. And despite opposition from a number of drivers Ocon has emerged as the choice to fill the vacant position.
Will this be a good move?
For the team, definitely. Ocon has been a solid addition to the F1 paddock since his debut and has kept up with his teammate, Pascal Wehrlein, on a regular basis. While I don’t believe he is as good as Hulkenberg (who I personally rate very highly) he is very young and has plenty of time to improve.
Add that to the fact that his relationship with the Mercedes team will likely result in Force India using the Mercedes power unit for the foreseeable future and it seems like a good deal for them.
For Ocon it allows him to regularly challenge for at least the points paying positions and, as Perez has shown this season, possibly even podiums. So for him it’s also a good deal.
The only question I will ask, though, is why Ocon and not Wehrlein? Wehrlein has more experience in F1 (albeit only half a season more), they’re both Mercedes test drivers so the engine partnership will be maintained either way and the German has even scored a point in what is one of F1’s worst cars (the Manor).
It could be the fact that he’s previously tested with the team and they know his talents but the answer likely lies with money and sponsorship as it so often does with F1. Either way, though, this is a good move for both team and driver.