Force India junior to return for Euro F3 title charge

© XPB 

Force India development driver Nikita Mazepin will return for a second season in the highly-rated FIA Formula 3 European Championship, with the Russian aiming “to fight at the front” in 2017.

Mazepin will stay with multiple race-winning outfit Hitech GP and look to improve from a 2016 campaign where he ranked 20th in the Drivers’ standings with four points finishes at Formula One venues Paul Ricard, Spa, and Hockenheim.

The 17-year-old dovetailed his Euro F3 commitment with a F1 development role at Force India, which saw him drive the VJM09 on both days of the post-British Grand Prix in-season test at Silverstone in early July.

“I had a good first season in Formula 3,” said Mazepin, who was making the step from Formula Renault this year.

“Of course, it was a steep learning curve as it was only my second full season in car racing.

“I managed to show at certain points, particularly Spa, Paul Ricard and Hockenheim, where I had my first rookie podium, that I have the potential to make the step up next year to fight at the front. This is the target.”

Hitech GP team boss Oliver Oakes added: “Nikita had a typical rookie season in F3, showing some promise and also finding some tracks more difficult.

“He had some really strong races, particularly Spa and Hockenheim, where he showed he has the ability to be at the front in F3.

“We need to build on that and some consistency next season, if we do then Nikita can be at the sharp end of the field throughout the year.”

The announcement came a few days after Force India decided to place another of its protégés, Formula Renault race winner Jehan Daruvala from India, in the same championship at renowned British team Carlin.

Recent Euro F3 graduates in F1 include 2014 champion Esteban Ocon and title rival Max Verstappen, as well as 2016 winner Lance Stroll who will make his grand prix racing debut at Williams next year.

Happy to announce that i will be staying in FIA F3 for 2017 with @hitechgp ! ⭐️ #mazepin #TeamNM #WinterTest #Jerez #HitechGp

A photo posted by Nikita Mazepin® (NM) (@nikitamazepin) on

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