Force India creates GP2 partnership with Hilmer Motorsport

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Force India has expanded into the GP2 ranks with a partnership with Hilmer Motorsport, the team announced Friday. The provides Sahara Force India an official place in the championship, and expands the organization’s driver development program beyond its reserve lineups.

Facu Regalia and Daniel Abt will drive the team’s GP2 entries; Daniel Juncadella will focus on his reserve role with the F1 team.

“As a team we’ve always placed great emphasis on nurturing young drivers so I’m delighted to announce our partnership with a GP2 team,” Force India team principal Dr. Vijay Mallya said. “It’s the logical next step as we look to bring through the next generation of drivers and provide them with the opportunity to showcase their talent. Our presence in GP2 moves us closer to having a holistic development programme to school drivers from grassroots karting to the higher echelons of professional motorsport.”

Added Hilmer team boss Franz Hilmer, “We are very happy about the collaboration between Hilmer Motorsport and Sahara Force India Formula One Team. I’ve had an association with Sahara Force India for ten years and we are looking forward to working together on a sporting level going forward.”

Abt was already confirmed in this year’s GP2 lineup, and Regalia steps up from GP3, where he finished second to Daniil Kyvat in 2013.

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.