SUZUKA, Japan (Reuters) - Mexican Sergio Perez will race for the Force India Formula One team again next season in an unchanged lineup with Germany’s Nico Hulkenberg.
“I am very happy to confirm that I will be staying with Sahara Force India. It means I can simply focus on the important stuff -- driving the car and scoring points for the team,” the 25-year-old said in a team statement on Thursday.
“Since coming here I’ve really grown as a driver and I feel I‘m performing at my best,” added Perez, who joined from McLaren at the end of 2013 and is currently the only Mexican on the starting grid.
Hulkenberg’s extension had already been announced at the Mercedes-powered team, who are fifth in the championship. Perez has scored points in his last three races and is ninth overall.
While Perez had been expected to stay, after a multi-year contract was announced last year, there had been lingering speculation he could switch to Lotus if that struggling team is taken over by Renault.
However the Mexican, whose sponsors make a significant contribution to Force India’s finances, had made continuity a priority.
Mexico is back on the F1 calendar this year for the first time since 1992 and the country could have two race drivers in 2016 with Ferrari reserve Esteban Gutierrez seen as a frontrunner for a seat at the new U.S.-based Haas team.
With Perez confirmed, the main focus of the driver market is now on McLaren, Lotus and Haas.
Britain’s Jenson Button, the 2009 world champion and Perez’s former team mate, is expected to announce he is leaving McLaren and the sport after a season of struggle with an uncompetitive Honda engine.
Over at Lotus, who have so far confirmed only Venezuelan Pastor Maldonado, Frenchman Romain Grosjean looks likely to leave for Ferrari-powered Haas.
Champions Mercedes, closest rivals Ferrari and Williams have announced unchanged lineups for 2016 while Red Bull already have Australian Daniel Ricciardo and Russian Daniil Kvyat on long-term contracts.
There could be more movement on the engine side, however, with Red Bull talking to Ferrari about a supply for both them and sister team Toro Rosso after losing patience with underperforming Renault.
Lotus use Mercedes engines but Renault’s arrival could see that supply going to tail-enders Manor Marussia, who are currently powered by Ferrari.
Reporting by Alan Baldwin; Editing by Pritha Sarkar/Mark Lamport-Stokes