Sergio Perez could be on the verge of a career-changing season as the Force India driver aims to earn a seat with a top-tier team for 2019.
The Mexican starts his eighth campaign in F1, his fifth with the Silverstone-based outfit. With potential drives up for grabs at Mercedes, Ferrari and Red Bull next year, Perez is determined to use the season as a springboard to one of the front-runners.
"Definitely it is a year that is going to determine my career, my coming years," Perez told Reuters.
"This year it's going to be interesting to stay where we are and then see what's available. I definitely want to be in the best possible car I can be."
Force India has been a model of consistency in the past couple of years, earning the title of "best of the rest" behind Formula 1's unassailable Mercedes-Ferrari-Red Bull trio.
While the team secured another fourth-place finish in the Constructors' standings in 2017, its season was also marked by the fierce rivalry between Perez and team mate Esteban Ocon, the pair suffering several flash points and on-track clashes before Force India's management reined in the pink panthers' mutual aggression with team orders.
A less contentious relationship ensued and both Perez and Ocon have vowed to stay out of trouble this year and work towards the common goal of helping the team hold its own in 2018
"I think we definitely had very intense moments in the team and thankfully everything changed for the good of the team, for the benefit of us," explained the Mexican.
"Now we work well together, in the last races, and I really hope that trend continues.
"We have to work together, we have to be united to push the team forward and hopefully battle each other for good positions."