November 10, 2016

SILVERSTONE, England (AP) Esteban Ocon is joining the Force India team next season on a multi-year contract, replacing Nico Hulkenberg after he left to join Formula One rival Renault.

The 20-year-old Frenchman is racing for the Manor team this season. There are two races left, starting with this weekend's Brazilian Grand Prix.

Force India confirmed Ocon's signing in a team statement on Thursday, saying he will race alongside Sergio Perez ''to form one of the most exciting line-ups on the grid with a blend of youth and experience.''

Ocon made his F1 debut at the Belgian GP in late August and has competed in seven races.

''Spending half a season at Manor Racing has given me some valuable experience and I feel ready for this new opportunity,'' Ocon said.

Force India team principal Vijay Mallya sees Ocon as ''an exceptional talent, as his status as a Mercedes junior (driver) demonstrates.''

''Force India has a tradition of investing in young, talented drivers and the arrival of Esteban will bring some fresh energy and motivation to everyone in the team,'' Mallaya said.

Ocon won the European Formula 3 championship in 2014. He began this year racing for Mercedes in Germany's DTM touring car championship and was also a reserve driver for the Renault F1 team.

''Esteban has the most impressive track record in junior (racing),'' Mercedes head of motorsport Toto Wolff said.

Force India, which is supplied by Mercedes engines, is vying with Williams for fourth in the constructors' championship and holds a nine-point lead heading into this weekend's race.

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