On the move – Force India signs Esteban Ocon for 2017 F1 season
Mercedes
Esteban Ocon
Posted By: Editor   |  10 Nov 2016   |  12:53 pm GMT  |  52 comments

Force India has signed Esteban Ocon to race alongside Sergio Perez for the 2017 Formula 1 season, it was announced today.

Ocon, who made his F1 debut with Manor at this year’s Belgian Grand Prix, signed what the team has described as a “multi-year” deal yesterday.

The Frenchman explained the process he would go through before racing for Force India next season and thanked Manor and Mercedes – he is one of the German manufacturer’s junior drivers – for their support.

Esteban Ocon

Speaking in an official statement, Ocon 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 1, 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 1.”

Esteban Ocon

Force India team principal, Vijay Mallya, whose team ran Ocon as a test driver in 2015, welcomed the 20-year-old to the Silverstone-based squad.

He said: “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.

Vijay Mallya

“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.”

Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff praised Force India’s decision to sign an up-and-coming young driver.

He said: “Esteban has the most impressive track record in junior formulae and he is an exceptional personality outside of the car. Force India have a strong record of working with young drivers and have again shown courage and vision to take Esteban under their wing.

“Even more, it is a positive development for Formula 1 that talent wins over money and we will be seeing some of the most impressive youngsters fighting to make it to the top in Formula 1 over the coming years.”

XPB.cc Toto Wolff

Ocon, the 2014 FIA European Formula 3 champion and the 2015 GP3 title winner, has finished every F1 race he has started since his making his debut at Spa.

His best finish came in the Belgian race, where he finished 16th, although he equalled that result in Malaysia.

Ocon spent the first half of 2016 racing for Mercedes in the DTM series and working as Renault’s reserve F1 driver. He was repeatedly linked with a seat at the French manufacturer’s Enstone-based squad before Nico Hulkenberg, who Ocon will replace at Force India, signed for Renault, and it became clear that he was a target for the team that is currently fourth in the constructors’ standings.

Pascal Wehrlein Esteban Ocon

Manor sits tenth in the constructors’ championship thanks to Pascal Wehrlein – anther Mercedes junior driver – finishing 10th at the Austrian Grand Prix.

What do you make of the news that Ocon will join Force India in 2017? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below or head over to the JAonF1 Facebook page for more discussion.

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1

Based on performance WEH should have gotten the nod for the FI drive but I believe it was the familiarity of OCO in his testing role at FI that earned him the opportunity. WEH needs to accept this and leave the sour grapes at home. As we have seen with GUT it can only put him in a negitive light with his current team and future prospects.
Speaking of GUT is there a way he goes to Manor next year to team up with WEH? The extra cash I’m sure would be welcome to further the development of the car but that driver pairing could prove a difficult one to manage.

2
Tornillo Amarillo

James, sorry out of the point… but what Hamilton has to do to win in Brazil AND avoid ROSBERG in second? Both things.

Hamilton seems to be resigned to his bad fate of losing this championship, but I cannot give up…. to take more risk should be his personal STRATEGY…

Example, and because he has nothing more to loose, he can put himself in pole and THEN stay 1.5 seconds ahead, not 4”, not 6”, not 8”…

It is riskier but you can give a lot of DIRTY AIR to Nico, ruin his tyres and like “push back” Nico a little with Ricciardo, Vettel and the likes.

That way Rosberg finally will have to drive a little and not just cruising for P2 and the Crown!

If something goes wrong with this Hamilton strategy, like undercuts by Nico or DRS overtaking by him, well, Lewis will have to catch him up and overtake for P1,and in such a case maybe Nico under pressure just could get out and lose positions. “This is motor racing” would be repeated again and again after the race 🙂

What do you think? If you don’t like Trump, vote! If you don’t like finishing runner-up, DRIVE!!!

3

I expect Ocon to justify this upper tier drive.
But it makes me wonder about the future of Pascal Wehrlein?!
Three years at Manor, may not be all that good on a resume, going forward.
Does anybody have additional information about Wehrlein
I’ve never been convinced by Wehrlein, but based on on-track performance, and steady hype, he seems to have earned the next step up.

4

Why 3 years at Manor ? Wehrlein is still in his rookie season and can be called up to replace either Ham or Ros at anytime after next year or in 2018 in case there is a fallout or one gets bored or Merc simply wants to refresh the lineup. Ocon on the other side is signed to a multi year deal in a midfield team and can not be used as a replacement for Ham or Ros without Mercedes … off Force India. Both Ocon and Wehrlein will drive Mercedes powered cars next years and can be further analysed by Mercedes. Not much changes, i still think Wehrlein has a shoe in at Mercedes A team in 1-2 years unless they can get Verstappen or Ricciardo.

5

Robert, I got it wrong, Wehrlein has only been driving in 2016.
My mistake, I had thought he was driving in 2015 at Manor/Marussia.

6

He did right. Its better to join a team that is notching up YoY, than join a team despite being factory backed, retains a guy who scored 12.5% of their points to let go of the other who made the rest of 87.5% points.

7
Tornillo Amarillo

Max in a RB, Ocon in a good FI & Lance with a Merc PU, it is just a shame Sainz stays again waiting for a such competitive chasis or PU, like waiting for a miracle in 2017…

8
Tornillo Amarillo

I’ll enjoy young Max, Ocon & Stroll in the same Drs sector !

9

I cannot fully understand the lastest musical chairs.

– Not sure why Ocon over Pascal ? ……..Pascal to go straight to Merc when Ros/Ham leave?

– If Ocon can move to Force India – why cannot Renault not grab him in lieu of Palmer (am assuming Renault were not thrilled with either current drivers and Ocon probably represents better potential) ?

– Looks like K. Mag wanted a longer commitment but would a manufacturer team not be a better bet than Haas (2nd tier Ferrari?) ?

– Looks like there is scarcity of future potential F1 drivers that we are seeing drivers moving teams / just getting retained / demoted…e.g. Kvyat (demoted from Sr. to Jr. team and gets retained), K.Mag – 3rd team in as many years in maybe declining trend (McLaren to Renault to Haas), Palmer (Renault not thrilled but gets retained).

—-Positive news is we have newer crop like Vandoorne, Ocon and Stroll next year to look forward to.

10

To be fair Red Bull had to demote Kvyat in order to keep Max out of the clutches of Ferrari & Mercedes, I’m not saying it was morally right but definitely the right decision for Red Bull.

I fully expected Kvyat to be dropped by Torro Rosso and replaced with Gasly for next season, I don’t think Kvyat has done enough to retain his seat but perhaps Red Bull / Torro Rosso don’t have confidence in the drivers within their Young Driver Programme.

11

Except that Gasley is about to not win the GP2 Series ………

12

Wow! Esteban to Force India ahead of Pascal? Seems there’s no particular progression order in the Mercedes academy. Is this based on his junior formula records?

13

obviously. He didn’t show anything remarkable against Pascal in F1 till date.

14

How has Ocon shown better than Werhlein?

15

In his attitude and work ethics, your pal Wehrlein seems to have an enormous chip on his shoulder.

16

They chose Ocon over Wehrlein? Where is Wehrlein going? I thought Wehrlein was Merc’s current protoge. Seems counterproductive to keep him at Manor. He must be annoyed by this decision. Was money a factor? (Sorry, stupid question).

And if Magnussen is going to Haas, does that mean Grosjean is out? That doesn’t come as a surprise considering how much he criticised the car over radio.

17

Gutierrez is out at Haas…not Grosjean….not sure why you would think otherwise.

18

Grosjean will stay, Gutierrez is out, he has shown nothing in his three years in F1.

19

“Even more, it is a positive development for Formula 1 that talent wins over money”

Tell me Toto, how much have you reduced the Merc PU cost to Force India by in order to get Ocon in the car? It can’t just be me who despises every word that comes out of TW’s mouth…

20

Via bear, can you you just explain why you despise every word coming out of toto wolfs mouth,it’s not a dig ,just a bit of a strange comment

21

Its a fair question Fursty and perhaps I was being a tad harsh, I’m sure it’s not just me but I’m getting fed up of his comments pre-race of how Merc are under threat for pole and race win from Red Bull and Ferrari, come Saturday and Merc lock out the front row comfortably, with Sunday resulting in a Merc win (more often than not).

I feel he insults the viewers / readers intelligence with these comments when we all know that Merc WILL get pole (with the exception of Monaco) and, more often than not, get the race win such is the size of their advantage.

Lets be honest money WAS a factor for FI to take Ocon onboard.

22

I’ve got be honest, I hate ToTo’s presence in F1. He’s like a corporate soldier amongst racers. I know that he’s done a bit of racing himself, but what is he 6’4″?
I think of him as a business person with his finger in too many pies, and so many conflicts of interest that you can’t get a straight word out of him! Give me a passionate ex-racer who says the wrong thing over this sanitised corporate speaker- anyday!

23

Hear, hear! I much prefer Niki Lauda’s no-nonsense approach when dealing with the press and TV. Also, cut-price power units = commercial backing – you get nothing for nothing in this life.

24

Maybe Pascal will turn his engine off next time his engineer tells him to, but too late your teammate has bolted past you in the standings.

25

Bryce, that was a bizarre incident wasn’t it? I haven’t heard a driver ignore a team instruction like that since Alesi decided he didn’t want to put for fuel that time…..

26

Multi-Year in modern F1 means nothing.
Oh, well, it means next year they will potentially (at best) not terminate his contract.

27
Tornillo Amarillo

ps: the small email square missed the end, so sending comments is tricky, I suggest to make the email field longer. I have had problems in the past and even I tried to contact somebody to fix it.

28
Tornillo Amarillo

Can’t believe FI seat was not given to WHERLEIN, can’t believe Renault did not get OCON, and congrats to FI they will have a great pair in 2017.

29

Can’t believe FI seat was not given to WHERLEIN

If I was running a team, I personally wouldn’t go near a driver who refuses to turn his engine off, potentially costing me several million big ones…

30
Tornillo Amarillo

Sure it was that?

Has Wherlein ruined his carrier really?

31

THE golden rule of success in capitalism, politics and, yes, racing – it’s not what you know, it’s WHO you know………….

Think of the grand prix paddock like a Masonic lodge, or the “Stonecutters” off the Simpsons – it’s all the “secret handshake brigade” at work…….

32

To be honest I’m not entirely sure this is a good idea . Ocon has showed promise against Wehrlein at Manor but he is not consistently beating him . It is my personal opinion Ocon should’ve done a full season at Manor but I open to eating humble pie. Good luck to Ocon as I think he has the potential to be successful in F1 . Whether he can deliver on that promise is another matter.
James who is likely to be replacing Ocon at MRT ? What will happen to Wehrlein? Will he stay at MRT?

33

Wow thats big. Force India is the perfect place for a talented junior to get their career going in F1. They are small enough to personalise the experience and strong and experienced enough to be very competitive and to reflect real talent.
I think the 2017 cars accross the grid will be a real challenge particularly for young racers.. Best of luck to Estaban & Force India should be terrific team again with 4th place funding the car and Perez driving the way he has been…

34

I know one of their owners is in jail, and the other is on the run, but Force India have at least always run good drivers. It must have been tempting for them to go for the Nasr mega bucks, just as it would have been to run Pastor a few years ago, but it is to their credit that they have taken the best driver available yet again. I am well aware of the backing Checo brings to the team, but others would have offered more, it is his talent level that has kept him in that seat. The fact that Williams have once more gone down the other route of driver selection saddens me greatly, if a much smaller team like FI can keep credible drivers, why can’t Williams?
What does the selection of Ocon over Wehrlein tell us? It would seem to make more sense from Mercedes’ point of view to promote the more senior driver first, but it appears that Vijay’s gang has gone for what they percieve to be the more talented driver. I would love to know what incentives, if any Mercedes offered to FI to run one of them….

35

Already Donald Trump’s victory has had a casualty – within Formula 1! One of Checo’s sponsors was a sunglasses company who put out a tweet yesterday telling Mexicans to buy their products to

“hide their tears at Trump’s victory.” Checo is incensed, and has terminated his contract with the company as “my people and my country come first”.

The Trump effect has blown through the grand prix already – and it’s only been a day!!!!

36

force india don’t need nasr’s money because they have checo’s. if they didn’t have checo’s cash i bet they would’ve chosen a pay driver just like williams

37

richb, I believe the cash on offer from Nasr comfortably outweighs the budget Checo brings with him. You say they would take a pay driver, I think there past record says otherwise.

38

nasr does have more cash but force india don’t need it, checo brings enough and he’s the better driver.
their past record is irrelevant, i said they’d take a pay driver now, there’re no pay drivers on williams past record

39

richb, Checo is the better driver, that’s my point. No pay drivers at Williams?! Maldonado, Nakajima snr and jnr…..

40

what did you mean by ‘You say they would take a pay driver, I think there past record says otherwise’
it’s insinuating force india haven’t used pay drivers in the past, i was stating neither have williams at times eg. hulk and rubens.
Nakajima snr didn’t drive for williams.

41

richb, my apologies, snr drove for Lotus not Williams. When I said there record says otherwise, I meant that Force India wouldn’t take a driver based purely on the budget he brings. They have run Hulkenberg and Perez for three seasons now, yes they both have sponsors, but how many less talented but richer drivers have been around in that time? I see no reason why the team would take someone like Nasr or Stroll now when they haven’t done that before.

42

i see. williams didn’t decide purely for the budget though. they tried very hard to sign button first, approached sainz jr and perez before they settled with stroll.

43

Richb. I’m not sure if those approaches to other drivers were in case Botas went to Renault. Stroll has been doing private tests in a 2014 Williams F1 car since the summer, I doubt his Dad stumped up the 20 million this is reported to have cost just on the off chance of a race seat. I think that deal was inked shortly before Massa announced his ‘retirement’. Either way do Williams really think that Stroll will do a better job than Magnussen?

44

Unfortunally Williams probably have to pay the whole fee for the Mercedes-engines and therefore has to bring in more money.
ForceIndia will probably get a significant discount for the engines now when they elected to run a Mercedes-protége.

45

The view expressed by Joe Saward is that the discount is worth 5-10MUS$. So although he is highly talented he still brings money just in an indirect way.

46

David, yes but others would have brought more.

47

Mike. I believe the whole fee for the Merc unit is significatly less than Stroll brings with him. Toto is on record saying they won’t be giving anyone free engines for running a driver.

48

With Mercedes having two youngsters currently at Manor is there any reason that Ocon has been selected to drive at Force India instead of Wehrlein, with Ocon having only driven in F1 since mid-season do any of his performances warrant his promotion ahead of Wehrlein?

49

It might be more down to Force India than Mercedes – Ocon has been their test driver in the past and they know him better; perhaps they also think they have more chance of keeping him long-term.

50

I’m guessing the real reason is that Wehrlein was not thrashing Harayanto.

51

I think Wehrlein can feel pretty hard done by, he’s generally outperformed Ocon and sometimes by quite large margins (although it’s always difficult to tell in a backmarker team how much unequal performance there was between the cars).

I feel like Wehrlein has been on a bit of a hiding to nothing – if he lost to Ocon he was damaged, if he beat him then Ocon has the excuse of joining mid-season. It’s a bit like Verstappen but lower profile.

52

Yep. Wehrlein must feel rather forlorn about Ocon rising ahead of him. But if at 2018 Lewis ends up at Ferrari (Marchionne has said that he wants Lewis at Ferrari and is an admirer of 3xWorld Champ) then Wehrlein may end up at Mercedes. Though if Ocon ends up there also with Wehrlein it will be a solid team.
Mercedes are trying to get a buffer of Mercedes drivers together to keep Red Bull and Toro Rosso in check for the new changes in 2017 .
Empire building the German way.

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