Esteban Ocon has signed a deal to switch from Manor to Force India for 2017.
That is the claim of a Spanish publication Formula Rapida, amid a multitude of similar reports in the wake of the weekend’s Mexican grand prix.
Force India is looking for a replacement for the Renault-bound Nico Hulkenberg, and 20-year-old Frenchman Ocon would make sense given his backing by the team’s engine supplier Mercedes.
“It’s Vijay (Mallya)’s decision and we’ll start those discussions probably when we get back next week,” deputy boss Bob Fernley said at the weekend.
Germany’s Auto Motor und Sport agrees that Ocon is a leading contender, and the ‘oracle’ Eddie Jordan is also thinking the talented rookie is a likely choice.
“Ocon at Force India, (Felipe) Nasr at Renault and (Esteban) Gutierrez at Sauber,” Jordan is quoted as predicting.
Auto Motor und Sport said Ocon would come with a $3 million discount for Force India’s Mercedes engine deal, although Nasr and Jolyon Palmer are reportedly carrying about $16m in private sponsorship each.
Nasr is being particularly championed by Bernie Ecclestone, who wants a competitive Brazilian on the grid.
“We need to choose what is good for us, not what is good for others,” said sporting boss Otmar Szafnauer.
But the team is also not denying that commercial considerations will play into the decision.
“The 2017 cars will need to be developed constantly,” said technical boss Andy Green. “If you can’t do that, you’re gone.”