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Force India to take more risks with fourth place secure

By Reuters - Nov 07,2017 - Last updated at Nov 08,2017

Force India Formula One drivers, Sergio Perez (11) and Esteban Ocon (31), in action in undated photo (Photo courtesy of forceindiaf1.com)

LONDON — Force India are prepared to let Sergio Perez and Esteban Ocon race more freely in the last two races of the season now that the team are sure of fourth place in the Formula One championship, co-owner Vijay Mallya indicated on Tuesday.

Mexican Perez and his young French teammate were reined in by the Silverstone-based team after their on-track clashes cost Force India points, and possible podium places earlier in the year.

Force India are now 99 points clear of fifth-placed Williams, and 165 behind third-placed Red Bull, with a maximum 86 remaining to be won. 

“With fourth place secure, we have the freedom to take a new approach into the remaining races — perhaps by trying some different things or different Friday drivers in the car to see what we can learn for next year,” said Mallya in a team preview for this weekend’s Brazilian Grand Prix.

“We can also be more aggressive with strategies and take more risks,” added the tycoon, who is contesting an extradition request from India on fraud charges and has not left Britain since March last year.

“We’re still hungry for strong results and want to end the season on a high note. The race in Brazil this week is an opportunity to continue our run of strong performances at the very least.”

Mercedes-powered Force India, who finished fourth overall last year with 173 points, are enjoying their best season yet in terms of points scored with 175 from 18 races so far. 

Perez finished fourth at a wet Interlagos last season, while Ocon — then with now-defunct Manor in his debut season — was 12th.

Force India have been running Mexican reserve driver Alfonso Celis Jr in some of their Friday morning free practice sessions. Mallya did not name any others who might get slots in Brazil or Abu Dhabi.

Meanwhile, British teenager Lando Norris will replace retired world champion Jenson Button as McLaren’s test and reserve driver next season, the Formula One team announced on Monday.

The 17-year-old has been part of McLaren’s Young Driver programme since the start of the year and is expected to compete in Formula Two in 2018 after winning the European Formula Three championship this year.

“Lando is an outstanding young talent. Today’s announcement is thoroughly deserved, and underlines the incredible high regard in which we hold his abilities,” said McLaren Executive Director Zak Brown in a statement.

“His summer test for McLaren was also remarkably impressive, and was further proof that he is ready to step up and take on a role of this size, scope and responsibility.

“At McLaren, we are all extremely keen to help him achieve his goal of racing in Formula One.”

Norris, who will be 18 next week, will attend Grands Prix and have an active role in testing and the simulator, starting with a tyre test at Interlagos after next weekend’s Brazilian Grand Prix.

He will stand in for race drivers Fernando Alonso, a double world champion, and Belgian Stoffel Vandoorne if either are unable to compete.

“I’m still working hard to finalise my own racing programme for 2018 — we’re close on a number of different fronts, but not quite there yet. I hope to be able to announce something shortly,” said Norris.

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