Article written by: Daniel Mills

Mercedes junior driver Esteban Ocon says he knows he needs to "confirm" his skill to his bosses in his second full Formula 1 season with the Force India team.

Ocon made his grand prix debut at the 2016 Belgian Grand Prix with the backmarker Manor team, then made his leap up to Mercedes' customer team Force India for a very impressive first full F1 campaign in 2017.

Ahough Lewis Hamilton is expected to renew his contract with Mercedes beyond the current campaign, the other  race seat with the German team is up for grabs.

As well as current occupant Valtteri Bottas, Ocon needs to prove himself above Mercedes reserve drivers Pascal Wehrlein and George Russell.

"I think it is one of the most important year of my careers," Ocon said in an interview.
"After learning a lot last year, everybody is waiting for me to confirm this year, which is quite normal. It's what my bosses are looking at.
"My career's managed by Mercedes so my bosses set me some targets for this year and I have to respect them.
"I feel like if I do a strong job here there will always be plenty of opportunities, but at the moment I'm fully focused on Force India and that's the important thing."

The Frenchman said his preparation over the winter included "fixing the details I thought was not great last year", which he said would remain "confidential".
"It's my own personal development, my physical strengths and the weakness I felt I had," he said. "All that is fixed now. I feel more than ready to start the year."

Ocon will take on Sergio Perez for another season inside the 'Pink Panther' Force India team, after a close 2017 season in which the two teammates collided several times which ultimately resulted in the duo being not allowed to race each other by the team.

Mercedes boss Toto Wolff has previously said that Ocon will be expected to outperform Perez over the course of 2018, and Ocon has identified qualifying as his main area to improve to achieve that.
Perez outqualified Ocon in 9 of the first 10 races last year, although the Frenchman was the man on form in the second half of the season and pulled the final  qualifying deficit back to 13-7.

"I felt that all through the year I was fast through the race but I was lacking a bit of qualifying pace, especially in the beginning of the year," stated Ocon.
"That was gone by the end, I was feeling better and stronger in qualifying. It was more normal and coming to me."
As well as beating his Mexican teammate, Ocon said he is targeting his maiden podium finish in 2018.
"We have as much chance as previous years, or more," he said.
"Force India has been scoring podiums every year and it was only last year we didn't score – but last year we were more competitive than the year before.
"I think we have our chances to score and I will be chasing it."