Force India driver Sergio Perez has been linked to several rumors suggesting he might replace Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen for the 2017 season.
Force India driver Sergio Perez has been linked to several rumors suggesting he might replace Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen for the 2017 season.

SAN FRANCISCO (Diya TV) — The Force India F1 team are confident driver Sergio Perez will remain with them next season, despite the heavy rumors linking the 26-year-old to a possible vacant seat at Scuderia Ferrari.

Perez showcased a masterful driving performance at last weekend’s Grand Prix of Europe, where he finished in third place. It was his second podium of the season after finishing at Monaco in the same position. He was additionally named driver of the day at the race in Azerbaijan last weekend after navigating his car from a seventh-place starting position to the podium finish.

It was his second top-three finish in the last three races. The Mexican driver has now collected four of the five podium finishes in Force India team history.

Nico Hulkenberg, his teammate, is yet to finish higher than fourth place in 102 career starts.

“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 percent sure about anything but I would be comfortable to say that he will be with us.”

Perez is a former member of Ferrari’s drivers academy — recruited by current Scuderia principal Maurizio Arrivabene — and began his F1 career in a Ferrari-powered Sauber in 2011. He made his move to McLaren the following year, just as the former world champions began to enter a downward spiral. Perez left McLaren to join Force India in 2014.

Kimi Raikkonen, a former world champion himself, has been the subject of several rumors saying he’ll lose his seat with the Ferrari team at season’s end, when his contract is set to expire. The Ferrari team are yet to announce who will partner with its No. 1 driver, four-time world champion Sebastian Vettel, for the 2017 season.

“To be honest, I am not really into those rumors,” 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 had qualified second in Azerbaijan, however, he faced a five-place grid penalty after his car required a gearbox change thanks to the aftereffects of a crash during Friday’s practice session.

“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.”