Sergio Perez says the pressure will be on his Force India teammate Esteban Ocon in 2018 after the Frenchman impressed in his first full Formula 1 campaign.
Ocon, who joined Force India with just nine races of experience with Manor from 2016, scored points in 18 of the 20 races and finished just 13 adrift of Perez in the standings.
In Motorsport.com’s team principals’ top 10 poll, Mercedes junior Ocon, who has a multi-year contract with Force India, was ranked fifth.
“[Beating Ocon] is the main target [in 2018],” said Perez. “The pressure will be on him now, because it’s his second year with the team and everyone will expect big things from him.
“It will again be very close I think.”
Perez admitted he was impressed by Ocon’s performance, citing strong preparation as key to him being on the pace straight away.
“I certainly rate Esteban,” said Perez. “He’s got a lot of talent and a lot of experience.
“He came to Formula 1 very well prepared. He was already quite mature, with a lot of knowledge behind him, so he was straight away on the pace.
“He definitely did a really good job. There’s no secret that he’s a very good driver, and one of the drivers for the future.
“His driving style is very comparable to [former teammate] Nico [Hulkenberg]. They’re very similar in a way.”
Perez suggested September’s Singapore GP, when Force India brought a big update package for its car, was a point when he started to lose ground to Ocon.
“We brought some upgrades, and setting up the car with those upgrades, I lacked a lot of balance,” said Perez.
“I was not feeling comfortable over one lap. Esteban all of a sudden was quite strong in qualifying, so in that period was when I struggled.
“But I’m pleased that we managed to fix that. We have very good understanding on what went wrong.
“So I’m pretty confident, especially going forwards for next year, it will be a good starting point for myself.”