Esteban Ocon signed by Force India

The Frenchman, a Mercedes junior will move up from backmarkers Manor to partner Sergio Perez at the Silverstone squad on a long-term deal.

Esteban Ocon signed by Force India
Esteban Ocon will step-up to Force India for 2017, his first full Formula One season. (Image: Sutton Images)

The latest piece of the Formula One driver market jigsaw has slotted into place, with the announcement that Esteban Ocon will replace Renault bound Nico Hulkenberg at Force India in 2017.

Ocon is relishing the new challenge

Ocon, 20, only made his debut at Spa in August, replacing Rio Haryanto for Manor and on occasions has out-performed Pascal Wehrlein, a fellow Mercedes junior driver.

Starting 2016 in DTM, Ocon was loaned by Mercedes to Renault, in the hope of giving him some on-track action during Friday morning practice sessions. This was after driving the 2015 Force India in both in-season tests at Barcelona and the Red-Bull Ring.

Ocon has previous experience at Force India, driving for them in both in-season tests in 2015. (Sutton Images)
Ocon has previous experience at Force India, driving for them in both in-season tests in 2015. (Image: Sutton Images)

 "I'm very excited about joining Force India" said Ocon, with the team describing the deal to take the Frenchman as multiple year, keeping him tied to the team in "2017 and beyond."

In the statement released to announce the decision, Ocon said "I'm still relatively new to Formula 1, but spending half a season at Manor Racing has given me some valuable experience and I feel ready for this new opportunity at Force India.

"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 expect from me."

The 2017 driver's line-up is filling up

The former F3 and GP3 champion was high on Renault boss Frederic Vassuer's wish-list, to race for them in 2017 onwards, but the complexity of Ocon's contract at Mercedes is reported to have put them off, instead deciding Jolyon Palmer will be partnering Nico Hulkenberg in 2017.

Ocon's Manor team-mate Pascal Wehrlein looks to be staying where he is for 2017, the only other available seats, at ​Sauber and Haas look to be filled, with the former retaining their line-up of Marcus Ericsson and Felipe Nasr, whilst Kevin Magnussen, ousted from Renault is favourite to take Esteban Gutierrez's seat at Haas.

2017 Driver line-up
Team Driver Driver
Mercedes Lewis Hamilton Nico Rosberg
Ferrari Sebastian Vettel Kimi Raikkonen
Williams Valtteri Bottas Lance Stroll
Red Bull Daniel Ricciardo Max Verstappen
Force India Sergio Perez Esteban Ocon
Renault Nico Hulkenberg Jolyon Palmer
Toro Rosso Carlos Sainz Jr Danill Kvyat
Sauber TBA TBA
McLaren Fernando Alonso Stoffel Vandoorne
Manor TBA TBA
Haas Romain Grosjean TBA