Force India has taken on 16-year-old Nikita Mazepin as a development driver in a 'long-term association with the team'.

The Russian teenager will work with the F1 team in an extensive development programme in its simulator as well as attending various race events in 2016.

Mazepin will combine his efforts with Force India alongside a rookie campaign in the FIA European Formula 3 championship with Hi-Tech Racing and hopes he can pick up a vast amount of experience with the F1 team for his burgeoning career.

"It's an incredible feeling to join Sahara Force India," Mazepin said. "It's the biggest step in my career and I want to thank Vijay and everyone in the team for giving me this opportunity. I'm still young and I have a lot to learn, so the guidance and experience of Sahara Force India is really important for my development.

"My goal is to race in Formula One in the future and today's news takes me closer to achieving that objective. I will work hard to help the team and do everything I can to improve my skills on and off the track."

Mazepin finished runner-up in the 2014 CIK-FIA World karting championship before graduating into the Formula Renault 2.0 last year.

Force India team principal and managing director Vijay Mallya says bringing a Russian driver into his squad can help it grow in a market with huge potential in F1 and is confident Force India can accelerate the youngster's development.

"This is a fantastic opportunity for Nikita to begin his Formula One apprenticeship and become fully embedded inside our team," Mallya said. "We have a strong track record of identifying and nurturing young talent and it is clear that Nikita is already a very capable and determined racer.

"2016 will provide the perfect opportunity to showcase his abilities and develop the skills needed to become a Formula One driver. We plan to use him extensively on our new simulator and he will also support our in-season testing programme, which will play an important role in the development of the VJM09.

"It's also exciting for the team to begin working with a young Russian driver given the success of the Russian Grand Prix in recent years. It's a market with huge potential for Formula One and the emergence of young talents, such as Nikita, will ensure interest in the sport continues to grow rapidly."



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