French driver Esteban Ocon will race for Force India next season after agreeing a multi-year deal, the Silverstone-based Formula One team said in a statement at the Brazilian Grand Prix on Thursday.
Ocon replaces German Nico Hulkenberg, who has moved to Renault, in the line-up alongside Mexican Sergio Perez at a team currently fourth in the championship.
The 20-year-old is contracted long-term to Mercedes, Force India's engine provider, and made his debut this year with the lowly Manor team as a mid-season replacement for Indonesian Rio Haryanto.
"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," he said.
"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."