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Published: 18:40 | 19/1/16

Perez: Hulkenberg in top three

Mexican hails teammate's qualities

Nico Hulkenberg is one of Formula 1's best three drivers, believes the German's Force India teammate, Sergio Perez.

During 2014, the pair's first season together, Hulkenberg out-qualified Perez and finished 37 points better off than the Mexican.

Hulkenberg continued his one-lap edge last season, although it was Perez who ultimately finished higher in the drivers' standings, 20 points ahead of his teammate.

Despite ultimately losing out to the Guadalajara native in 2015, Hulkenberg has received very high praise from Perez, who has also partnered Kamui Kobayashi at Sauber (in 2011 and 2012) and Jenson Button at McLaren (2013)

"I have learned a lot from Nico," Perez told Autosport. "He's been my strongest team-mate I've had in my whole career - a very strong driver.

"I definitely would put him among the three best drivers on the grid.

"I believe if I can be ahead of him, I can be ahead of anyone on the grid."

Chief engineer Tom McCullough feels that the ability of the two drivers to consistently challenge one another is positive for the team in general.

"We know how good they are," he said to Autosport. "We can go into a session and, if one of them is half a second off the other, we know it's probably because there's something wrong with the car.

"The drivers are so close. That helps us operate as a team, because when you've got one driver who is always a solid five-to-seven tenths off, then the driver in front can always say after qualifying that he got the maximum out of the car, this is as fast as it can go, develop it to make it faster because the other guy has gone out in the session before.

"But when they are constantly swapping, it just pushes the whole team forward."

At the conclusion to both of the last two campaigns, Force India's drivers occupied the ninth and tenth spots on the drivers' ladder. However, the team improved from sixth place in the constructors' standings in 2014 to fifth in 2015, despite scoring fewer overall points in the latter season.

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