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Ocon: Replacing Hulkenberg tough task

Esteban Ocon says replacing Nico Hulkenberg in the Force India set-up will be tricky after only half a season in F1 but is relishing the challenge.
Esteban Ocon says replacing Nico Hulkenberg in the Force India set-up will be tricky after only half a season in F1 but is relishing the challenge as his career progress continues to accelerate.

The highly-tipped youngster has secured a two-year deal with Force India under the blessing of his management at Mercedes and will team-mate Sergio Perez in 2017.

On the day of the announcement, the 20-year-old admitted he hadn't been scheduled to make his F1 debut until next season but saw his maiden DTM campaign cut short as he stepped up for Manor in place of Rio Haryanto.

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The 2015 GP3 Series winner says he has been given assurances from Force India that they feel he is ready for the move despite his inexperience but concedes he is already feeling the pressure to fill the void left by Renault-bound Hulkenberg.

“They [Force India] believe in me, they think we can achieve great things together, and they want a strong driver to replace Nico, which is a tough task, but I will do my best to replace him the best way possible,” Ocon said. “Coming with not a lot of experience halfway through the season was very hard.

“Probably my progress was a good point, and I also tested with Force India back in 2015, and the test was great. I remember being P2, just behind the Mercedes, and it was a hard day – raining, drying, so I remember a great test, great memories, and the team welcomed me well back then.”

READ: Who is going where? 2017 F1 driver line-up so far

Ocon beat Manor team-mate and fellow Mercedes driver Pascal Wehrlein to the Force India race seat for 2017, with the German driver demanding answers to why he was overlooked having scored the team's only points finish of the year.

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