Force India has hit back at suggestions the team has already decided the identity of Sergio Perez’s teammate for 2017.
With Nico Hulkenberg heading to Renault, reports early this week suggested the Silverstone based team has now inked a deal with Esteban Ocon.
Frenchman Ocon, 20, is obviously a contender thanks to his ties to engine supplier Mercedes, but Force India deputy Bob Fernley says a decision has not been taken.
“There is a long list of candidates,” he told Brazil’s Globo.
Indeed, a key player on the 2017 market is Felipe Nasr, who would come with substantial backing from Banco do Brasil and the specific support of F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone.
Globo said Fernley, team boss Vijay Mallya and other key Force India figures will sit down to discuss the 2017 selection this week.
“Felipe Nasr is on the list,” Fernley confirmed. “Vijay, myself, Andrew Green and Otmar Szafnauer will analyse the names one by one.
“We will all give our opinion about who we think is the best package. They should be fast, experienced and help the group to grow,” he explained.
“We are seeking a consensus solution, which doesn’t always happen in the first meeting. Personally, I don’t think we will decide the other driver straight away.”
Technical boss Green also told Globo that current Sauber driver Nasr is in the running, but so too is “everyone who is out of contract”.
“We are fourth in the constructors’ championship with one of the smallest budgets in F1,” he boasted.
Also on the list is the well-backed Jolyon Palmer, whose father Jonathan is among the best connected officials in British motor racing.
“He’d love to continue with Renault, he’s put a lot into it this year, he’s very bullish and enthusiastic about it,” Palmer snr told The Sun newspaper.
“But if that doesn’t happen, then of course there’s no doubt Force India is a great team. So that’s certainly something that we are pursuing,” he admitted.
The others on the list are Kevin Magnussen and the powerfully sponsored Esteban Gutierrez and Marcus Ericsson, while Mercedes’ other junior Pascal Wehrlein is understood to not be rated highly by Force India engineers.
Another dark horse for the seat is GP2 leader Antonio Giovinazzi, but Force India’s Green played down the likelihood of a rookie being signed for 2017.
“I prefer drivers with some experience in F1, especially with the new regulations for 2017,” he said.