Force India sign Nikita Mazepin to development driver role
Teenager Mazepin joins Alfonso Celis on team's 2016 test roster
By James Galloway
Last Updated: 01/02/16 10:56am
Force India have signed Russian Formula Three driver Nikita Mazepin to their development programme.
The 16-year-old will begin what the team are describing as a 'long-term association' with his F1 duties to include regular simulator sessions and attendance at various races in the forthcoming season.
Mazepin becomes the second development driver on Force India's books in 2016 after the team signed Mexico's Alfonso Celis in November.
Force India team principal Vijay Mallya 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.
"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."
After finishing second in the World Karting Championships in 2014, Mazepin made his single-seater racing debut last season in Formula Renault 2.0 and claimed a podium finish en-route to 12th place in the standings.
He moves up to the Formula 3 Euro Series this season, a junior category Lewis Hamilton and Sebastian Vettel raced in on their respective routes in F1.
"It's an incredible feeling to join Sahara Force India. It's the biggest step in my career and I want to thank Vijay and everyone in the team for giving me this opportunity," Mazepin said.
"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."
Force India are yet to name a reserve driver for the new season, although have already confirmed Celis will compete in seven Practice One sessions during the year.
The first Barcelona test starts on Monday February 22 and the Sky Sports F1 Digital team will be providing live commentary from dawn until dusk on all four days while Sky Sports News HQ will also deliver live updates from trackside.
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