Ocon signs multi-year Force India contract

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Esteban Ocon has signed a multi-year contract with Force India following a strong start to his Formula One career.

The Frenchman replaced Rio Haryanto at Manor ahead of the Belgian Grand Prix and has finished all seven of his races for the team so far, whereas team-mate Pascal Wehrlein has failed to reach the end of three of those grands prix.

Wehrlein had been tipped to take the seat at Force India but instead it is the 20-year-old Ocon who will partner Sergio Perez at the Mercedes-powered team. 

Former GP3 champion Ocon, who is part of Mercedes' driver development programme, 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."

Force India team principal Vijay Mallya added: "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's move means Sauber and Manor are the only teams still to confirm their driver line-ups for 2017. Haas are expected to continue with Romain Grosjean and add Kevin Magnussen to their squad, but have yet to finalise either.