Sergio Perez extends F1 contract with Force India for 2019

FILE - In this Nov. 18, 2012, file photo, Red Bull driver Sebastian Vettel, of Germany, leads the field into the first turn for the start of the Formula One U.S. Grand Prix auto race at the Circuit of the Americas, in Austin, Texas. At 7 years old, Austin and the Circuit of the America beat as the heart of Formula One in the U.S. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)

Sergio Perez extends F1 contract with Force India for 2019

AUSTIN, Texas — Force India and Sergio Perez announced Thursday a one-year extension for 2019 for the Mexican driver ahead of the U.S. Grand Prix and next weekend's return to Mexico City.

Perez has been with Force India since 2014, and he and his management team have been closely involved in the restructuring of the team. He is expected to partner next season with Williams driver Lance Stroll, whose father led a consortium in helping resolve the Formula One team's financial problems.

Perez is seventh in the 2018 championship standings, the same position he finished in 2016 and 2017. He has five podium finishes over his career with his best finish this season a third place at Azerbaijan. He is the only driver outside of the top three teams of Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull to finish on the podium this season.

"Over the last five years, Sergio has confirmed his position as one of the most talented and consistent drivers on the Formula One grid," said Force India Team Principal Otmar Szafnauer. "He gives us valuable stability going forward and is a huge asset to the team."

Perez said he's excited about the future of the team after it was cast in a doubt a few months ago.

"I think the best is yet to come. The new investment the team is enjoying fills me with confidence," Perez said.

Force India's other driver and Perez rival, France's Esteban Ocon, acknowledged he may be forced out of a job in 2019. He is part of Mercedes' driver development program and currently ranks 11th in the standings after earning points in 10 races this season.

"If I don't have a car next year, I will stay around. I will work with Mercedes to find a solution for 2020," Ocon said. "There's worse in life than this situation. It's not great but I'll be back from it and back strongly."

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Follow Jim Vertuno at https://twitter.com/jimvertuno

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