Sergio Perez extends Force India deal until 2017

By Andrew BensonChief F1 writer
Sergio Perez
Sergio Perez's best finishes this season came at Monaco and Baku - both third

Mexican Sergio Perez is to continue with Force India for a fourth successive season in 2017.

The 26-year-old had explored options with Williams and Renault but said on Sunday he was "happy and proud" to be with Force India.

He added: "I want to thank all the teams that showed interest. It flatters me incredibly and pushed me to be strong."

Force India are currently fourth in the constructors' standings.

The team had always insisted they had Perez under contract for 2017 but it took some time to finalise commercial arrangements with the driver and the group of Mexican companies that sponsor both him and the team.

Perez's career was hanging by a thread when he was dropped by McLaren after one season with them in 2013 but since joining Force India he has scored four podium finishes to add to the three he achieved with Sauber in 2012.

In the process, he has emerged in the last couple of seasons as one of the better-regarded drivers behind the big names in the leading teams and has more than justified his place at the pinnacle of the sport, despite the fact he brings money to a team to secure his place.

Both Williams and, particularly, Renault were interested in him, but he has decided that Force India is his best competitive opportunity.

The team have one of the smaller budgets in F1 but have impressed in recent years for their ability to produce a competitive car.

If they can maintain fourth position this season under pressure from Williams, it would be their best finish since the team were in their original guise as Jordan, who peaked with third place in 1999.

Renault taking their time

Jolyon Palmer and Kevin Magnussen shake hands with Renault president Carlos Ghosn
Renault drivers Jolyon Palmer (left) and Kevin Magnussen (right) are under pressure in their seats

Perez's decision leaves only a few loose ends to be tied up in the 2017 F1 driver market.

Williams are expected to announce shortly that they are promoting Canadian novice Lance Stroll, who on Sunday won the European Formula 3 championship, to partner their current driver Valtteri Bottas.

Brazilian Felipe Massa announced last month that he was retiring at the end of the season, which would leave Renault as the only major team not to have firmed up their drivers.

Mercedes, Red Bull and Ferrari are all retaining the same line-ups as this year and McLaren are promoting their reserve driver in Belgian Stoffel Vandoorne to partner two-time champion Fernando Alonso in 2017.

Alonso's current team-mate Jenson Button has decided not to race next year. The team have an option to bring him back in 2018 if they want to, but the 2009 champion said at the Malaysian Grand Prix this weekend that it was "quite possible" he would not race in F1 again.

Renault have long been expected to promote their French reserve driver Esteban Ocon into one of their cars next season, with both current drivers Kevin Magnussen and Jolyon Palmer under pressure for their seats.

But Renault have not yet made their decision and are taking their time.

The lack of availability of other drivers means either Magnussen or Palmer may be retained, although that is not believed to be Renault's first choice.

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