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Force India signs Russian rookie as second Formula 1 development driver

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Force India signs Russian rookie as second Formula 1 development driver
Feb 1, 2016, 2:16 PM

Force India has signed rookie Formula 3 racer Nikita Mazepin as a development driver ahead of the 2016 Formula 1 season.

Force India has signed rookie Formula 3 racer Nikita Mazepin as a development driver ahead of the 2016 Formula 1 season.

Mazepin, who will drive for Hi-tech Racing during his debut year in F3, becomes the second development driver appointed by Force India after the Silverstone-based team hired Alfonso Celis towards the end of 2015.

The 16 -year-old Russian driver will be, “immersed in the team as part of an extensive development programme with regular simulator sessions and attendance at various race events during the 2016 season,” according to a Force India statement.

Nikita Mazepin

Mazepin finished second in the 2014 CIK-FIA World Karting championship before making his car-racing debut in the Formula Renault 2.0 NEC championship in 2015. He ended up 12th in the final standings last year, with a best finish of third, which came in the final race at the Red Bull Ring meeting.

He said: “It’s an incredible feeling to join Sahara Force India. It’s the biggest step in my career and I want to thank Vijay [Mallya] and everyone in the team for giving me this opportunity.

“I’m still young and I have a lot to learn, so the guidance and experience of Sahara Force India is really important for my development. My goal is to race in Formula 1 in the future and today’s news takes me closer to achieving that objective.

“I will work hard to help the team and do everything I can to improve my skills on and off the track.”

Mazepin’s racing career is supported by his father, billionaire businessman Dmitry Mazepin, whose Uralchem company logo is featured on Hi-Tech’s F3 cars.

Vijay Mallya

Force India team boss, Mallya, highlighted the links between his new Russian signing and sponsorship opportunities in that market.

He said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for Nikita to begin his Formula 1 apprenticeship and become fully embedded inside our team.

“We have a strong track record of identifying and nurturing young talent and it is clear that Nikita is already a very capable and determined racer. 2016 will provide the perfect opportunity to showcase his abilities and develop the skills needed to become a Formula 1 driver.

“We plan to use him extensively on our new simulator and he will also support our in-season testing programme, which will play an important role in the development of the VJM09.

Sergio Perez

“It’s also exciting for the team to begin working with a young Russian driver given the success of the Russian Grand Prix in recent years. It’s a market with huge potential for Formula 1 and the emergence of young talents, such as Nikita, will ensure interest in the sport continues to grow rapidly.”

Although Mallya’s comments suggest Mazepin will be helping Force India’s race drivers Sergio Perez and Nico Hulkenberg in their 2016 testing duties, there is no mention of on-track running.

Alfonso Celis

Like Celis, who drove in the end-of-year Pirelli test for Force India, Mazepin’s main responsibilities will include simulator work at the squad’s factory.

The is no link between Mazepin and Mercedes, which supplies engines to his Hitech F3 team.

What do you make of Force India’s latest development driver? Will Mazepin help the team progress during the 2016 season? Leave your thoughts in the comment section below or head over to the JAonF1 Facebook page for more discussion.
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