OCTOBER 24, 2016

Nasr still denying Force India switch rumours

Reports that Felipe Nasr is in pole position to secure the vacant Force India cockpit for 2017 are gaining strength.

Reports that Felipe Nasr is in pole position to secure the vacant Force India cockpit for 2017 are gaining strength.

Even after the Brazilian rejected the rumours in Austin, the Brazilian broadcaster reported on Sunday that Nasr's switch from Sauber to replace the Renault-bound Nico Hulkenberg is all but guaranteed.

The rumours said the deal had the direct involvement of F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone, who with the retirement of Felipe Massa wants a Brazilian on the grid.

However, in conversation with Brazil's Globo, the Banco do Brasil-sponsored Nasr continued to fend off the reports.

"I have no connection with the team," he insisted.

Nasr even denied that his well-known manager, Steve Robertson, had had talks with Silverstone-based Force India.

"No, because he would have told me, so I can only repeat my answer."

When asked why his manager would not be in contact with Force India, given the fact Hulkenberg is leaving the team ranked fourth in the constructors' championship, Nasr answered: "I don't know. Do you have his number? Talk to him.

"To my knowledge, there is no connection with this team," Nasr added.

Asked if he is interested in Force India in theory, the 24-year-old said: "Sure, it's a very coveted seat. But I repeat, to this day I do not know anyone on my (personal) team who has spoken to Force India."

Force India deputy Bob Fernley also played down the strong Nasr rumours.

"This (US) grand prix and the next one in Mexico are perhaps the most important to us in terms of sponsors. In fact, at this moment, we are not thinking about drivers to replace Hulkenberg.

"After Mexico we will return to England and from there Vijay (Mallya) will choose Sergio Perez's teammate for 2017 from the options that we have," he said.

When asked if Nasr is on the shortlist, Fernley answered: "To avoid speculation, I do not want to name any names.

"But I know that our car is generating interest from many drivers, which means we are doing a great job."

Fascinatingly, when told that Nasr, Pascal Wehrlein and Esteban Ocon are obviously among the available drivers, Fernley interjected: "And Giovinazzi too."

Antonio Giovinazzi, 22, is the current GP2 championship leader, who recently signed a Ferrari test deal.

But Globo reports that the young Italian, who is managed by Eddie Irvine's former manager Enrico Zanarini, may be in talks about joining Mercedes' young driver camp.