Celis has one eye on 2017 Force India race drive

Mexcian teen Alfonso Celis Jr believes he can be a contender for a 2017 Force India seat after being confirmed as development driver for the team in 2016.

Ahead of his first appearance with the Silverstone-based team in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the 19-year-old spoke exclusively with Motorsport.com about his new role.

"I am really pleased to be able to announce this," said Celis. "We have been speaking since almost the beginning of the year.

"Then I started working with them, doing the simulator work, after which they decided that I was able to be the development driver for 2016.

"And if I perform well, I could be a [race] driver in the 2017 season."

As part of the deal, Celis will take part in the Abu Dhabi testing and also seven free practice sessions in 2016.

When asked about which Grands Prix he will appear in, he said it was yet to be decided, but hoped to drive in his home event in Mexico.

Happy to start with Force India

The Abu Dhabi test will be Celis' first outing with a F1 team, although he has already undertaken work at the Force India factory.

"I have been working with the team in the simulator but not on the actual race track, so I am really excited for Abu Dhabi," he said.

"The Grand Prix will give me the opportunity to take part in the briefings, the track walk and be involved in all plans for the weekend.

"It will be an amazing way to be with the team in a Grand Prix and see everything from the outside and also have the opportunity to drive in the same track."

Celis added: "They are professional people, they listen to my comments and are open.

"They want to improve and are performing well, always trying to be better each time and that’s the way to be if you want to be one of the best. I am just really impressed and I have learnt a lot from them."

Focus on Formula 3.5 V8 for 2016

This year, Celis combined driving for ART in GP3 with competing in Formula Renault 3.5 for the AVF squad, placing 16th in the latter and currently sitting 12th in the former with a round to go.

But for next year, Celis will only compete in the renamed Formula 3.5 V8 series with AVF along with his F1 commitments, ruling out GP3 as well as GP2.

"I want to focus only on [F3.5 V8] and be able to challenge for the title," he said. "Having done GP3 this year and 3.5, I don’t think I need to do GP2.

"As I am doing free practice, I want to be fully committed to F1 whenever I have the FP drive, and then I have my weekends in 3.5, so I can be fully committed to that."

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About this article
Series Formula 1 , GP3 , Formula V8 3.5
Drivers Alfonso Celis Jr.
Teams Force India , AVF , ART Grand Prix
Article type Interview