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.”
Grosjean to get a "pretty good idea" of
"Optimistic" Alonso targets F1 title aft
FIA target engine modes in effort to ens
Rowland joins Williams as young test dri
Vettel not "worried" but biding time bef
Return to papaya McLaren shows "deeper e
"Apprehensive" Alonso hopeful McLaren wi
McLaren unveils striking MCL33
Hamilton hopeful new Mercedes "irons out
Ferrari reveal the SF71H at Maranello
2018 McLaren colour confirmed in leaked
Toro Rosso hail "perfect" Misano shakedo
New Mercedes W09 breaks cover at Silvers
Toro Rosso STR13 revealed at Misano test
Force India in talks over potential take
Sochi promoters considering track tweaks
Petrobras to return to F1 with McLaren i
Hulkenberg sure of "exciting times ahead
Renault launches the R.S.18
Minor crash hampers Red Bull shakedown,
Sauber unveil the first car of new Alfa
Bottas reveals trouble-free race simulat
Marko worried Renault will hold Red Bull
Red Bull reveals new RB14 with special c
Kubica satisfied with progress despite m
Bottas will do "anything" to beat Hamilt
Red Bull & McLaren pressuring Liberty to
Latifi given Canada practice outing as p
Mercedes include McLaren and Renault as
Miami emerging as likely destination for
Kubica: Watching races will be "quite di
Verstappen "not looking forward" to raci
Brawn: DRS still a "necessary band-aid"
Williams hoping "significantly different
Williams reveal images of new FW41 in Lo
Sauber: Force India similarities offer l
Haas reveals first photos of new VF-18
Toro Rosso hoping to "spring some surpri
Alonso maintains earlier prediction of r
Haas sets ambitious 2018 performance tar
Ricciardo confident of greater Red Bull
Red Bull announce launch date for the RB
Baku race promoter wants to improve "una
McLaren expecting some aerodynamic oppor
F1 CEO Carey: Ferrari "unique" but can't
Mallya "proud" of Force India but sugges
Stroll using Hamilton as inspiration aga
FIA confirm ongoing work with IndyCar af
Button critical of WEC decision to chang
Verstappen sure rivals "would never see"
McLaren upbeat as Renault confident of e
Track limits a main topic as FIA officia
WEC confirms Fuji date change to accommo
Ricciardo wants "fast" teammate, particu
F1 CEO Carey considers Formula E a "stre
Grosjean identifies development as area
Hulkenberg "convinced" he was pushing 10
New Volkswagen motorsport boss coy on Po
McLaren would be interested in re-signin
Kyalami would only consider F1 if Libert
Alonso: Honda troubles led to a "united"
Pirelli targeting balance between better
Wehrlein confirms DTM return for 2018 af
Ricciardo needs to beat Verstappen to bo
Renault claims prospect of an engine ove
Sirotkin strongly rejects "pay driver" l
McLaren unconcerned by hectic Alonso sch
F1 announces new 'Grid Kids' initiative
Force India predict four-team battle for
Mercedes keen to establish if 'diva' cha
Liberty/ Ferrari confrontation "inevitab
Massa hoping for changes to address lack
Wolff: Ocon must beat Perez in 2018 to s
Alonso WEC program about proving he is "
Verstappen "challenge" makes him Ricciar
Stroll rejects notion of Massa as a ment
Boullier feared potential Alonso exit wo
Wolff sure new Hamilton/ Mercedes deal "
F1 decision to stop use of grid girls dr
Barrichello "feeling great" after reveal
F1 confirms change in start times for al
Fuji considering WEC date change to acco
8 F1 2018 predictions: Haas bottom of co
Marko suggests Alonso "did everything he
Williams insist 2018 driver line-up a lo
F1 ends use of grid girls from 2018
Bottas admits doubts led him to "overthi
Agag: Formula E will be the "main motors
Alonso hails Daytona performance of McLa
Toro Rosso targeting fourth, announce Ba
Alonso to combine F1 and WEC in 2018 aft
Renault confirms launch date for new R.S
Resurfaced Barcelona track causing Pirel
Sainz enjoys "very special" experience a
Date set for 2018 Alfa Romeo Sauber laun
Alonso feeling positive despite troubled
Hamilton pinpoints his main 2018 F1 titl
Liberty considering start time change fo
Mercedes: Fewer engines won't stop perfo
Williams reveal earliest 2018 launch dat