Ocon’s Force India switch for 2017 confirmed

2017 F1 season

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Esteban Ocon has signed a multi-year contract to drive for Force India starting in 2017, the team has confirmed.

Ocon, who made his F1 debut with Manor earlier this year at Spa, will take the seat vacated by Nico Hulkenberg. Sergio Perez has already been confirmed as his team mate.

Ocon tested for Force India last year
Force India ran Ocon in one of their cars during last year’s tests at the Circuit de Catalunya and Red Bull Ring. “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,” he said.

“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.”

Ocon has been supported by Mercedes since he won the 2014 European Formula Three championship with Mercedes power. Mercedes executive director Toto Wolff said Ocon “has the most impressive track record in junior formulae and he is an exceptional personality outside of the car”.

Ocon’s promotion means his Manor team mate Pascal Wehrlein has been passed over for the seat. Wehrlein is also backed by Mercedes and won the DTM title for them last year.

Force India team principal Vijay Mallya said “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.”

See the updated list of 2017 F1 drivers and teams

Pictures: Esteban Ocon testing for Force India

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Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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33 comments on “Ocon’s Force India switch for 2017 confirmed”

  1. Excellent. Biggest young talent, with Vandoorne, outside of Verstappen. Exciting to see so many youngsters at good teams.

    1. Pat Ruadh (@fullcoursecaution)
      10th November 2016, 12:18

      I’m not so convinced. He’s been pretty much on a par with Haryanto’s pace in that Manor and has been soundly beaten by Wehrlein on a consistent basis. On the face of it, Wehrlein seems the better pick.

      Maybe the team’s know something we don’t (maybe Wehrlein is just too belligerent?).

      Or perhaps they are getting carried away with the fact he beat Max to the Euro F3 title, in MVs first year out of karts.

      1. Ocon has tested with all three teams, like Wehrlein. He’s just gotten in the car and is regularly beating him. Ocon is clearly considered to be better, and that’s based on his performances in junior categories and testing for all three teams. I’m trusting that judgement.

        1. @hahostolze, I’m curious as to why you say that Ocon is “regularly beating” Wehrlein, because that doesn’t seem to match up with the statistics so far.

          Wehrlein is currently 5-2 up in qualifying and, in the races where both drivers have finished, has finished ahead of Ocon 3 times as opposed to 1 for Ocon. Furthermore, whilst we cannot judge what might have happened in Belgium and Mexico due to first lap incidents, Wehrlein was significantly ahead of Ocon in Monza (running in 14th place when he retired, as opposed to 19th for Ocon at the time) and, most probably, would have beaten Ocon if he hadn’t broken down.

          I mean, I’m not discounting the likelihood that Ocon is better than the initial comparison would suggest, and he did perform well in junior series like Formula 3 – however, at the moment he is not “regularly beating” Wehrlein in either qualifying trim or in race finishing position, so I’d have to disagree with that part of your post.

      2. Totally agree. Ocon was highly promising, he was impressive in junior categories, but once in F1 car, he wasn’t setting world on fire. He was beaten by Wehrlein consistently, so why choose him?

        Besides, I’d say, I would have picked one of the GP2 title contenders: Piere Gasly or Antonio Giovanazzi, who has been very impressive in his GP2 debut season, but nobody ever mentions him. Why? Maybe because he has no backing at all from other teams? No sponsors? Just hard to understand. And how about Charles Leclerc? He is very impressive youngster too.

      3. Might be because Wehrlein and Ocon are both Mercedes drivers, and Renault wanted Ocon, so Mercedes have ‘promoted’ Ocon to Force India to stop Renault tempting him away. That way they get to keep both on their ‘books’.

      4. @fullcoursecaution

        I think drivers are generally struggling when getting into a car mid season. We’ve seen it with Kvyat this year and with Kovaleinen in 2013.

        I reserve my judgment on him for next year.

        1. Pat Ruadh (@fullcoursecaution)
          10th November 2016, 19:04

          A fair approach @paeschli . I just feel its a bum deal for Pascal who’s done everything he needed to to deserve the seat on merit. If Ocon is really so talented as to deserve the promotion ABOVE Wehrlein, he should have shown some of it by now. The struggling mid season argument is a fair reason to give him another year in Manor, but not to give him Hulks drive over Wehrlein. This is why I definitely think something else is at play, like Wehrleins ego, or great feedback, or good management or something. I just dont see it on raw speed at the moment, though I’m sure Merc and F1 have their reasons

  2. Poor Pascal. Maybe not be a diva next time?

    1. Great news for Ocon, what has he had- 8 races?? Best of luck to him.

      With Pascal I think it was Texas practice he spun and wouldn’t shut off the engine despite 5 or 6 orders to do so – “give me 10 more seconds”- he wouldn’t do it. It was one of the other team principles that said “that is why he is not on anyone’s shopping list”

      If they are similar in talent you go with the one that plays the team game and works well with others. I am not saying Pascal doesn’t, but that was strange to ignore the engineers orders like that.

  3. There are going to be some rather tasty pairings on the grid next season. Lots of combinations of youth and experience. This should be good.

  4. I would like to see Rosenqvist replacing Ocon at Manor.

    1. Yes!

  5. Makes sense, apparently in test days Force India got on better with Ocon than Wehrlein. I think Wehrlein is definitely the better driver right now, but Ocon will be in the next few years, and has more potential. Good move for him, will be very interesting to see how he gets on against one of the most highly regarded drivers on the grid.

  6. I’m personally a bigger fan of Ocon than Wehrlein, but I must say, Wehrlein deserved this promotion much more than Ocon. Ocon has been disappointing in the Manor for me. And the excuse that he joined mid-season isn’t really valid after 7 races.

    1. Watching the F3 i think Ocon is the beter driver but he has an different curve he isn’t stabiel performance wise. How to say this like a wave coming on strong peak and then drops again. ( i think it’s experience he needs)

      Also watched the F3 battle between Ocon (topteam) and Max (midfielteam) i must say Max is the beter racer wheel to wheel. F3 may have won the championship but he was also the one who could lose it.

  7. Great news. Wishing him a great 2017 season.

  8. I really don’t get this decision. Wehrlein outperformed him on almost every single occasion. The only “benefit” I’d give to Esteban is that he probably needed a little more time to settle and to know better that specific car. Other than this, between the two of them, Pascal would have been a wiser choice for Force India at the moment. Most likely it’s a Mercedes choice, not a Force India one.

  9. I find this strange. He won’t have even had 1 full season of f1 experience by the end of this year and he moves very quickly from Manor to Force India. He hasn’t even been that impressive this year. To me, a driver like Ericsson would be much more deserving of this seat. He will have had 3 full seasons of F1 under his belt. That experience will help. While he wasn’t that good in 2014 and 2015, he really has improved this year and had had several rather strong races, unlike Ocon.

    1. Ericsson improved his performance at the same time his backers buyed the team. Sauber is clearly working for 1 driver only. He isn’t much better than Nasr, and it’s for sure worst driver than Wherlein. Wehrlein is the one that deserved this seat or maybe Nasr, he did a very good job when he had a car that he could drive.

      1. Sorry, but how can we say that Wherlein is better than Ericsson? We can’t really. The cars they have been in have been pretty evenly matched and Ericsson has often been doing better. Also, you may add that Wherlein got a championship point. Well, that is true, but that was only on one occasion and he was helped out by several more competitive cars retired. If Vettel hadn’t retired, He wouldn’t have been in the points. Alonso and Perez also retired that race which very likely will have helped. Ericsson has had several points finishes in his career and while his most recent race didn’t give him any points, I have to say it was more impressive than Wherlein’s performance in Austria. Ericsson had contact at the start, got damage that wasn’t his fault on the first lap, then pitted and then managed to climb all the way to 11th. And no retirements helped him there. If there had been several retirements like what Wherlien had, he will have easily had a point or two.

        Anyway, I think Ericsson is a fair bit better than Nasr. And I never believe that a team favors one driver more than another because of the sponsors. From half way through 2015 to now, I think Ericsson has overall quite clearly shown he is the better driver of the 2. And as he has more far more f1 experience than Wherlein and especially Ocon, so I still think he will have been a better option for Force India.

      2. From Brazil?
        Aren’t you gonna say that they are manipulating with Nasr’s car as well?
        Ericsson is outperforming Nasr, he is so desperate at the moment that he copied Ericssons setup in Mexico. He seems to have problems communicating with the engineers. There is always something wrong with the car.

        Early this year it was the same, Nasr wanted to switch car with Ericsson because he thought something odd was going on with his chassi.

        Is it a fact or just rumours that Ericssons sponsors bought Sauber? Haven’t seen any news about that.

  10. Ocon didn’t showd anything great yet and it’s being consistently outperformed. Wehrlein is the one that deserved this seat or maybe Nasr, he did a very good job when he had a car that he could drive. Both of them with more experience.

  11. Pascal was doing better and is a huge talent IMO. But his personality doesn’t seem to make his life easy.

    1. Paul di Resta had the same problem and look where he is know.

      1. Totally agree. Every time PDR would outscore his teammate he would shoot his mouth off saying he deserved a better championship winning car. Being a good driver isn’t enough anymore.

  12. First time since the team began, FI will not have a German in their driver line up next year

  13. Rather expected Wehrlein as he was the obvious choice… so confused that Ocon got it. I mean, he’s hardly stomped all over Wehrlein. Maybe it’s just me but I can’t say I’ve been impressed with Ocon so far, but then he’s had no time to really do anything which makes this promotion seem a little odd. Unlike Wehrlein that has had a lot of time and done some pretty good things in the Manor so… confused.

  14. Toto Wolff said that this is one proof that talent wins over money… c’mon, is this serious? Toto Wolff has half of F1 drivers in his hands, Force India uses Mercedes engine and having Ocon as driver means they have a discount in the engine supply, and TALENT WINS OVER MONEY?


    1. Yes, but they could have easily signed Nasr or Erricsson and gained huge sponsorship money. Much more than the discount they would be getting from Mercedes. Such is the state of F1 that talent alone cannot run teams – moneys required too. So I am sorry, its not a joke.

  15. Interesting choice. I must admit that I was impressed with Ocons driving style when if finally got t see them live.

    He had a smoothness about him that reminded me of Prost, so smooth in fact that when he came past a couple of times I thought he was on a cool down lap only to see his times leap up above Pascals. Pascal on the other hand came through as though he was on the ragged edge just about every lap (and was just beyond on 1 lap when he backed it into the wall).

    I’m definitely no expert but in these days of cost savings, engine and tyre management, I wonder if teams are looking for the sorts of qualities that Perez has – someone capable of coaxing the car to a good finish, like I tank Ocon will be able to.

    1. Very possible not to mention a fast smooth Prost like driver will bring a much needed challenge to Perez.

  16. People are upset because Pascal was not promoted. There are a lot of talks about Wehrlein’s difficult personnality. Bear in mind that if we fans hear it, then the whole paddock knows it too.
    So, not only Force India, I think a lot of others teams wouldn’t work with him too. Look at where Paul Di Resta is now!

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