Force India nearing renewed Sergio Perez deal

Sergio Perez is close to agreeing a new deal to remain with Force India for 2018, according to the team's chief operating officer Otmar Szafnauer.

At the Hungarian Grand Prix ahead of Formula One's summer break, Perez said he wanted to have his future resolved by the Belgian Grand Prix at the end of the month. The Mexican expressed he was keen to stay with the Silverstone-based outfit for a fifth campaign, following another successful season.

Force India heads into the second half of 2017 occupying fourth place in the constructors' standings as it looks to equal its best-ever finish in F1. Having only missed out on points with at least one of its cars on one occasion this year -- at May's Monaco Grand Prix -- Force India is 60 points clear of nearest rivals Williams and 83 behind third-placed Red Bull, while Perez is the highest placed driver outside of the big three teams in seventh place in the drivers' championship.

Perez has been linked with a possible switch to Renault or Ferrari over the past year but has already begun talks to extend his spell at Force India alongside teammate Esteban Ocon, who joined the team on a multi-year deal at the end of 2016.

"We haven't quite signed Sergio yet but we're not far off," Szafnauer said. "I think we can get it done by Spa. The high likelihood is that we're going to stick with our two drivers but I can't say that 100% because not both of them are signed."

Szafnauer believes continuing with the same driver line-up in 2018 will help build upon Force India's performance and its aims of closing in on Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull.

"I think the drivers will get better because they'll learn more, I think the engine will get better because Mercedes upgrade every year. There's some things we can do in the short term which we will do and I hope that relative to the top three we'll be closer next year."

While it looks increasingly likely that Perez will commit to Force India, Szafnauer admits the team would consider the likes of Mercedes junior Pascal Wehrlein -- whose future at Sauber is uncertain -- if Perez's proposed deal fell through.

"There's always got to be a plan B. So, if for some reason we don't sign Checo -- but I believe we will -- then you've got to look around, including [Pascal] Wehrlein. He's not so bad!"