Lewis Hamilton, Esteban Ocon, Spa-Francorchamps, 2018

“Exceptional” Ocon deserves F1 seat over pay drivers – Hamilton

2018 Belgian Grand Prix

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Lewis Hamilton expressed concern Esteban Ocon could lose his seat to a driver with greater financial backing despite the Force India driver qualifying a career-best third at Spa.

Ocon’s position at Force India is under threat as Lance Stroll is tipped to join the team his father has invested in. Speaking in the post-qualifying press conference alongside Ocon, Hamilton said the 21-year-old deserves a competitive seat.

“I’ve always been a supporter of Esteban’s,” said Hamilton. “I think how he conducts himself and how he performs on track is exceptional.

“Unfortunately we’re in a weird place in Formula One where you’ve got some teams that, rather than take a new up-and-coming kid, they’ll take whoever’s got the money. Which means the structure of the sport is probably wrong, and how the funds are distributed, or whatever it is.

“I also know, once Sebastian [Vettel] had signed, once I’d signed, things start to fall into place and you’ve got to be super-super quick and make sure you’ve got good management, so they’re sharp and make sure they do their diligence and they’re ready to quick-fire in the right direction. I’ve not read who’s signed where and what seats are available but he needs to be in a great car because he’s one of the top drivers here so I hope that opportunity is there for him.”

Ocon, a Mercedes junior driver, had been closing on a deal to drive for Renault next year but that fell apart after the team took the opportunity to sign Daniel Ricciardo. Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff said he is optimistic he about finding a place for Ocon.

“I have no doubt that Esteban Ocon will win races and compete for championships in the future,” he said. “We have seen the talent today again, and generally I must say that the performance of Force India and also Checo [Perez] is impressive.

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Stroll’s Force India switch to trigger moves for Ocon, Vandoorne, Kubica and Ericsson
“We thought [Ocon’s] future was clear around Budapest and it all changed within 48 hours. But it is how it is, it makes no sense to complain. I think Renault having secured Ricciardo has made a coup for the team in a positive way. It’s a no-brainer when you have a possibility of signing such a calibre of driver that you have to go for it.

“How things panned out was unfortunate for Esteban. We will continue to help him in finding a short-term solution for him to drive. There is a lot of interest out there and it’s just a matter of scanning the market in the next few days to choose the right option for him and for the team. But I’m very optimistic for his future.”

Hamilton, who has previously talked about helping young drivers make their way into Formula 1, said he isn’t sure what the sport can do to help promote talent such as Ocon.

“I’ve not put a lot of thought into what the sport can do about it. The best drivers need to be in the [right] car. You can’t let somebody who’s got more money leapfrog a better driver. It just shouldn’t happen.

“I think the governing body definitely has to somehow… it starts from the lower classes all the way up through Formula Four, Formula Three, Formula Two. Obviously there’s no space in my team, there’s no space in [Vettel’s] team, there was a space in Red Bull. There should be a shoot-out of some sort maybe. I don’t know what his options are. In some ways, I wish I was managing [him].”

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Dieter Rencken
Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
Keith Collantine
Lifelong motor sport fan Keith set up RaceFans in 2005 - when it was originally called F1 Fanatic. Having previously worked as a motoring...

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  • 17 comments on ““Exceptional” Ocon deserves F1 seat over pay drivers – Hamilton”

    1. I’m glad Lewis is sticking up for the talented but less financially well off drivers. He’s been using his platform to do a lot of good recently, good on him!

      1. Hamilton’s comments “sponsored” by Mercedes?

        1. He can’t win in your books can he?

          1. I’ve realised that most who discredit Hamilton’s abilities and the things he says aren’t worth your time.

    2. Stroll must love reading stuff like this.

      1. From multiple world champions, no less!

      2. When you get a seat because your father is a financial partner, not because of your skill you should expect flak from other drivers. There’s no bad way to get on a F1 team, but this surely isn’t a good one.

      3. First, Stroll’s own countryman criticises pay drivers and rich kids who beat others due to their financial backing. Now, Stroll’s role model takes another jab at undeserving pay drivers taking seats of more deserving drivers.

        I don’t think all this affects Lance though… coz he’s still beaming with joy that daddy bought him an F1 team.

    3. There is so much wrong with Formula 1 these days! When drivers of the calibre of Button and Alonso have to finish their F1 careers in lower midfield teams despite being in top form it’s ridiculous. And to make it even worse, when talented and quick young drivers like Ocon can lose their seat because someone comes in with a bag load of money, it’s a disgrace. F1 is supposed to be about the best drivers damn it!!!

    4. And capitalism is supposed to create equal opportunity for everyone.

      1. @gufdamm – eh, you got it wrong. Capitalism gives equal opportunities for everyone, and ‘equaller’ for the 1%.

    5. Even just the thought of Ocon potentially being left out without a drive in F1 for next season doesn’t sound right. He himself has more or less already confirmed that he won’t continue at FI beyond this season as he was caught speaking to Vettel after qualifying and in that conversation with him he ”all but confirmed his seat at Force India would be taken by Lawrence Stroll’s son Lance in 2019.”

      Here’s the transcription of their conversation:
      Vettel: Next year? Still nothing?
      Ocon: No.
      Vettel: Will you be here [at Force India]? No?
      Ocon: No, no. The seat is taken.
      Vettel: Oh yeah? Who?
      Ocon: Have a guess! The one who bought it!
      Vettel: Yes, but the other one…?
      Ocon: Well, the other one [Sergio Perez] brings money.

      Source: https://www.motorsport.com/f1/news/ocon-uncertainty-shows-f1-structure-probably-wrong-hamilton/3164700/?nrt=54

      1. It must be painful for Ocon to see a good result ends in nothing. I hope he get’s a seat, but the chances are small.
        McLaren will stick with Alonso, confirmed Vandoorne, and a Mercedes talent towards Sauber aka Ferrari is not something I see so quickly. The only place would be Williams cause it’s Mercedes. Don’t know how much Kubica has the grip on that seat, but rather see Ocon take it then Kubica.

    6. To date there’s no evidence that Esteban won’t be driving a car at Monza. Currently there’s rumours he won’t be driving for Force India, but does that matter? There’s rumours he will be driving for McLaren, if so he’ll be keeping Alonso honest. As far as I can tell Laurence Stroll is a very astute businessman, and if he decides he can put his son into a top team and enable them to make a profit at the same time then I can only assume he’s right.
      The TV commentators were saying that Force India had lost all their Constructor’s Championship points, isn’t that worse than Lance being given a seat? Having all their Constructor’s Championship points annulled means all the work by Sergio and Esteban and the rest of the team were all for nothing.

      1. With Checo and Esteban, at least RPFI can some more points to replace the ones they lost.

    7. I’ve not read who’s signed where and what seats are available…

      There are only 18 other drivers in the entire sport. Why would a driver not be interested to know who is driving for which next team ?
      This is a non-issue and he will eventually know early next year. But makes me wonder if Lewis has any real “friends” in the sport..

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