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Force India are confident Sergio Perez will stay with them next season, despite rumoured Ferrari interest, after anotherstand-out
performance by the Mexican at last Sunday’s (19) European Grand Prix in Baku.
“I think he’ll be with us next year,” Force India’s deputy principal Bob Fernley said. “In this business you can never be 100 per cent sure about anything, but I would be comfortable to say that he will be with us.”
Perez, 26, finished third in Azerbaijan’s debut race and, for the second time in eight races this season, was named Formula One’s driver of the day.
It was Perez’s second top three placing in three races and the Mexican has now taken four of the five podium finishes in Force India’s history. He was third in Monaco in May, had claimed third place in the Russian Grand Prix last year, while in 2014, he finished in the same position in Bahrain.
His German teammate Nico Hulkenberg, who finished ninth in Baku, has yet to finish higher than fourth in 102 starts.
The best performance for the team remains the one achieved by Giancarlo Fisichella in 2009 when he finished second in the European Grand Prix in Valencia.
Ferrari’s 2007 world champion Kimi Raikkonen is out of contract at the end of the season and they have not yet announced who will partner Germany’s Sebastian Vettel in 2017.
“To be honest, I am not really into those ru- mours,” Perez told reporters in Baku when the subject was raised. “I am focused on my job to give the best to my team.
“I have said it before that I am happy at Force India, but for the future who knows what will happen… We are still in the early part of the year to make any decisions for later in the year.”
Perez, who qualified second in Baku but started seventh due to a grid penalty resulting from a gearbox change following a crash in practice, fin- ished third behind Nico Rosberg and Sebastian Vettel after overtaking Raikkonen on the last lap.
“To be on the podium for a second time this year feels fantastic. We are having an amazing
year,” Perez said. “Yesterday, when I hit the wall in qualifying I was very frustrated with myself, but the team did a great job to repair the car. And to- day, it was a fight all the way. It was very nice to take Kimi on the last lap!”
Force India collected 17 points from the race to take its tally to 59. They are still 31 points behind
Williams but 27 clear of nearest ri- val Toro Rosso.
“Perhaps if we could have started in second, where we qualified, it might have been a slightly different story with Vettel. Whatever we did, we did on merit because nobody gave us anything,” said Fernley. “In fact we made life as difficult as we could for ourselves.”