Perez/Hulkenberg on 'verge' of moves to big F1 teams - Force India

Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg are on the verge of being snapped up by championship-challenging Formula 1 teams, according to Force India deputy chief Bob Fernley

Perez/Hulkenberg on 'verge' of moves to big F1 teams - Force India

Perez and Hulkenberg both have contracts with Force India next year, although Perez - twice a podium finisher in 2016 - has said he can leave the team and Renault and Williams are believed to be keen on securing his services.

ANALYSIS: Who holds the key to the driver market?

Fernley believes both drivers are targets for F1's top teams and would not block such a move - but does not want to see them leave for any lesser squads.

"Whenever you give Checo [Perez] an opportunity for a podium, he takes it," Fernley told Autosport. "You can't fault it.

"Over the last three years with us, his progression has been remarkable and he has settled in to be a real contender.

"Nico always delivers solid performances, but this year it is difficult to answer where his luck has gone.

"But it doesn't matter, his head never goes down, he continues to fight all the time and he pulls off good results.

"Checo is on the verge, as is Nico, of maybe going to one of the championship-potential teams.

"We would be the first to wish them well.

"But what we don't want to see either of them do is make a sideways move."

Formula 1 2017 driver market guide

Perez endorsed Fernley's view of Hulkenberg's form so far this season and is pleased with how he has performed against him.

"Nico is a very strong driver and I rate him as one of the best on the grid," he said.

"I would have love to have beaten him more, same as he would have wanted to beat me more.

"But I'm happy with how I have performed against him."

MAZEPIN ROLE TO INCREASE "SIGNIFICANTLY"

Russian teenager Nikita Mazepin made his F1 debut with Force India in the post-British Grand Prix test and impressed the team to the extent his role is set to be expanded next year.

"He did a first class job in Silverstone for his first test in a F1 car," said Fernley.

"His role will increase significantly next year and we will put more focus onto him to start bringing him through.

"We recognise one of our drivers may move onto greater things so we have to think of the future and that is bringing the youngsters through.

"It's early days, but the indications are that he is doing well and it looks like he has raw speed and talent.

"He is still very young and we've got to see how he goes next year but then perhaps this time next year we can have the discussions.

"Next year, we will look at him taking a more active role within the team, maybe doing some FP1s, so we can evaluate him."

Mazepin is currently racing in the Formula 3 European Championship with HitechGP.

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