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Perez rates Ocon on a similar level to former teammate Hulkenberg

Written by  Dec 05, 2017

Sergio Perez believes Force India teammate Esteban Ocon is at a similar level to Nico Hulkenberg, the driver he replaced at the Silverstone-based team for 2017.

Many expected the Mexican to be too strong for the Mercedes junior when he joined from Manor but instead, the 21-year-old would be one of the star performers this season with 18 top 10 finishes albeit stronger points results helped Perez beat Ocon by 13 points.

Though the strength of the former European F3 and GP3 champion led to some tension on track, including several collisions, 'Checo' saw many comparisons between Esteban and Hulkenberg.

“I rate Nico very highly, I still do and I certainly rate Esteban,” the 27-year-old said. “I think he has a lot of talent, a lot of experience. He came to F1 very well prepared.

“Since the first test that he did with the team, he was already quite mature, with a lot of knowledge behind him. He was straight away on the pace and he definitely did a really good job. I think it is no secret he is a very good driver and one of the drivers for the future. It was a good challenge during the year.”

The continued improvement, as his first full season went on, led to Ocon starting to outshine Perez, but the seven-time podium sitter would blame that as much on his own problems.

“I think his driving style is very comparable to Nico, they're very similar in a way and, in general, he was strong but I had a bit of a period with a couple of races where we had these rules of engagement where we could not fight each other,” he commented.

“All of a sudden there my qualifying... we brought some upgrades and, setting up the car with those upgrades, I lacked a lot of balance. I was not feeling comfortable over one lap, and Esteban all of a sudden was quite strong in qualifying.

“I think over that period was where I struggled. I'm pleased that we managed to fix that and we have a very good understanding of what went wrong."

Looking ahead to 2018, Perez hopes to capitalise on perhaps a higher level of expectation on Ocon to produce results to once again finish ahead in the Drivers' Championship.

“That's my target, definitely, that's the main target,” he said. “I think the pressure will be on him now because it's the second year for him and everyone will expect big things from him. It will be again very close I think.”

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