Force India to pick drivers by Indian Grand Prix

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Force India will make a decision on their driver line-up for next year around the time of the Indian Grand Prix at the end of the month.

Deputy team principal Bob Fernley told Autosport: “Our decision process is one that takes place around the Indian Grand Prix, it’s a shareholder decision and that’s always the timing for us.”

Both its current drivers have been with the team for several years. Paul di Resta joined in 2011 and Adrian Sutil has started every season Force India has competed in since it joined the sport in 2008, with the exception of last year. GP2 driver James Calado made his F1 debut for the team in practice for the Italian Grand Prix.

Force India are currently sixth in the world championship and are within range of fifth-placed McLaren which Fernley says makes them an attractive option for competitive drivers.

“You would be surprised how many good quality drivers there are but if you are being realistic,” he said, adding “there are probably three seats for four quality drivers”, referring to Force India’s two seats and the vacancy at Lotus created by Kimi Raikkonen’s move to Ferrari.

However he indicated the change in regulations next year will make it more attractive for teams not to change their driver line-ups: “”But nobody is going to be looking at a massive change for 2014.”

F1 2017 driver review: Esteban Ocon

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Esteban Ocon

Team: Sahara Force India
Car No.: 31
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 0
Best Finish: P5 (Spain, Mexico)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 87
Championship Position: 8th

A shining star in Mercedes’ junior programme, Esteban Ocon vaulted fellow youngster Pascal Wehrlein in the pecking order to secure a seat at Force India for 2017 – and boy, did he live up to the hype.

Ocon arrived at Force India with half a season of racing under his belt after his outings with Manor late in 2016, but wasted little time in settling in, scoring points on debut in Australia after winning a thrilling three-way fight with Nico Hulkenberg and Fernando Alonso.

The Frenchman spent much of the year close to teammate Sergio Perez – even if things did get a little too close in Canada, Baku and, finally, Spa, prompting the team to introduce team orders – and impressed the entire paddock with his displays.

While no podium was forthcoming, Ocon was often leading the midfield fight, enjoying three straight finishes ahead of Perez from Japan to Mexico. Given how well Perez is rated on-track in the paddock, to have convincingly beaten him in such fashion did a lot for Ocon’s reputation.

The term ‘Oconsistency’ also came into F1’s dictionary as he set a new record for consecutive finishes from his first race, with his retirement in Brazil ending the streak at 27 grands prix. It was also his first retirement in a single-seater race since the 2014 Macau Grand Prix.

The highlight moment arguably came at Monza, though, when Ocon stuck his Force India third on the grid through torrential rain in qualifying. While he would drop to P6 at the checkered flag, the display nevertheless cemented his place as one of F1’s rising stars.

Mercedes rates Ocon very highly, and with Valtteri Bottas’ future beyond 2018 already being questioned by the paddock, a good season could see the youngster move on up to the top table of F1 for 2019. His progression in the next 12 months will be fascinating to keep track of.

Season High: Lining up P3 on the grid at Monza after a rainy qualifying.

Season Low: Clashing with Perez in Baku, costing Force India a possible podium.