Sergio Perez says he'll need a year of great performance to position himself for a move to a top team when the drivers' market opens up for 2019.
The Mexican appeared on track for glory when he left Sauber after two formative years to join McLaren in 2013. But a disappointing campaign broke Perez's momentum, forcing him to take a step back the following year and rekindle his strength at Force India.
After four years of running in the mid-field with the Silverstone-based outfit, albeit competitively, the 27-year-old will be hoping to move up a notch once again at the end of 2018.
"It's such an important year," Perez told Motorsport.com.
"There will be a lot of movements around Formula 1 in 2019 so it's important to be quick from the beginning next year.
"I believe in F1, everyone is looking at you not only in one race or one year but many years. When you look at what I've done in the last few years, I believe I'm in a good position."
With a wealth of experience and a wiser mindset, Perez believes his is as prepared as ever to move on to the next level.
"I believe if the opportunity ever comes, I am totally prepared, very complete on the aspects as a driver and a person," he said.
"That can make a big difference if the opportunity ever comes. I believe I will move up the grid, I believe there will be a chance."
He recognizes however that a second big break may perhaps never materialize, a shortfall he would obviously regret.
"I will have the regret that I never had the chance to show I can fight for titles, win titles. But there is nothing you can do.
"I've shown what I can do in Formula 1 but I want more and I feel that I can do a lot more than this."