Sergio Perez believes Esteban Ocon will be under pressure to perform in 2018 due to the impressive first full season the Frenchman enjoyed at Force India.
Ocon started nine races at the end of the 2016 season for Manor and did enough to secure a race seat at Force India when Nico Hulkenberg moved to Renault. Alongside Perez, Ocon scored points in all but two races – failing of finish for the first time in Brazil – ending up 13 points and one position behind his teammate in the drivers’ championship.
With Ocon outscoring him over the final five races, when asked if his goal is to beat his teammate again in 2018, Perez replied: “That’s my target, definitely.
“That’s the main target. I think the pressure will be on him now because it’s the second year for him. Everyone will expect big things from him. It will be very close again, I think.
“I rate Nico very highly. I still do. I certainly rate Esteban. I think he has a lot of talent, a lot of experience. He came to Formula 1 very well-prepared. Since the first test that he did with the team, he was already quite mature, with a lot of knowledge behind him. He was straight away on the pace. He definitely did a really good job. I think it is no secret he is a very good driver, and one of the drivers for the future. It was a good challenge during the year.”
Seeing Ocon as a similar challenge to Hulkenberg, Perez believes team orders imposed by Force India following collisions this year actually allowed the Mercedes youngster to get the better of him for a number of races.
“I think his driving style is very comparable to Nico,” he said. “They’re very similar in a way. I think in general he was strong. I had a bit of a period with a couple of races where we had these rules of engagement where we could not fight each other. All of a sudden there my qualifying… we brought some upgrades, and setting up the car with those upgrades, I lacked a lot of balance. I was not feeling comfortable over one lap, and Esteban all of a sudden was quite strong in qualifying.
“I think over that period was where I struggled. I’m pleased that we managed to fix that. We have a very good understanding of what went wrong. I’m pretty confident, especially going forward for next year, it’s a good starting point for myself.”