ON HIS WAY? Manor Racing driver Esteban Ocon could be on his way to Force India after one season with the British team. Image: AP / Geert Vanden Wijngaert
London - Esteban Ocon has signed a deal to switch from Manor to Force India for 2017.
That is the claim of a Spanish publication Formula Rapida, amid a multitude of similar reports in the wake of the weekend's Mexican Grand Prix.
Force India is looking for a replacement for the Renault-bound Nico Hulkenberg, and 20-year-old Frenchman Ocon would make sense given his backing by the team's engine supplier Mercedes.
Deputy boss Bob Fernley said: "It's Vijay (Mallya)'s decision and we'll start those discussions probably when we get back next week."
Germany's Auto Motor und Sport agrees that Ocon is a leading contender, and the 'oracle' Eddie Jordan is also thinking the talented rookie is a likely choice.
Jordan is quoted as predicting: "Ocon at Force India, (Felipe) Nasr at Renault and (Esteban) Gutierrez at Sauber."
Auto Motor und Sport said Ocon would come with a $3-million discount for Force India's Mercedes engine deal, although Nasr and Jolyon Palmer are reportedly carrying about $16-million in private sponsorship each.
Nasr is being particularly championed by Bernie Ecclestone, who wants a competitive Brazilian on the grid.
Sporting boss Otmar Szafnauer said: "We need to choose what is good for us, not what is good for others."
But the team is also not denying that commercial considerations will play into the decision.
Technical boss Andy Green said: "The 2017 cars will need to be developed constantly,if you can't do that, you're gone.