Force India expects to retain Sergio Perez for the 2017 Formula 1 season, amid rumors of Ferrari interest.
Recent speculation has linked Perez with a move away from the team, with his name in the frame for a seat at Ferrari should the Scuderia decide not to renew Kimi Raikkonen’s contract for a further year.
But Force India deputy team principal Bob Fernley is convinced Perez will be at Force India for what would be the Mexican’s fourth consecutive season.
“It is a compliment to Checo, and the great job he has done, to get the interest across the board that is there,” Fernley told Autosport of the rumors of a move. “I won’t go into details on their contracts, but I’m confident we’ll have the same two drivers next year, so I’m not worried.”
Perez’s teammate Nico Hulkenberg’s contract already runs through to 2017.
“The consistency we’ve had from Nico and Checo over the last two years has helped us enormously, and it would be good for us to have that same consistency with the new chassis next year,” Fernley continued. As far as we’re concerned we’ve two super drivers who work well together, who jel with the team, who’ve been successful, so why change?
“You never know, outside influences can always play a part and you just have to wait for things to happen, but I’m pretty confident we’ll be the same.”
Fernley is convinced with Perez and Hulkenberg now starting to regularly pick up points – with both drivers in the top 10 in the last two races – Force India is on target to retain its fifth place in the constructors’ championship.
“We’re not quite on a par with the top four teams yet, but we were very close in the last race in Canada. We’ve just got to keep chipping away at it,” he added. “The most important thing is we keep edging away from Toro Rosso behind us and make sure that fifth place says nice and solid, and hopefully we can use it as a springboard for next year.
“After a tough start to the season we were expecting a long-ish haul of chipping away at the points to get us back to where we needed to be, but Monaco was a delight [with Perez third] which gave us the ability to leapfrog.”
Fernley is far from ruling out challenging Williams for fourth, and has dismissed the prospect of McLaren gaining ground from behind.
“Let’s make sure we get that fifth place, but Williams are never out of our sights,” said Fernley. “As for McLaren, they are not on my radar at the moment for this year, but I think they will be strong for next year. The Honda engine is moving along, there are improvements there, and you can never fault a McLaren chassis.
“So you put the two together, and it’s a whole new ballpark for next year, and given the resources they have you should never underestimate them.”