Esteban Ocon, Force India, Red Bull Ring, 2018

Ocon sees “less and less” opportunity to stay in F1 next year

2018 F1 season

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Esteban Ocon admits his prospects of staying on the Formula 1 grid next year are getting slimmer.

The Force India driver’s seat is under threat from Lance Stroll, whose father Lawrence purchased the team last month. Ocon had previously been linked to Renault and McLaren, but following Daniel Ricciardo’s surprise departure from Red Bull, both those opportunities have gone.

“I was in a fantastic position a couple of months ago,” Ocon admitted. “And this has turned in a way that I am without a seat nowadays.”

Ocon is part of Mercedes’ young driver programme. “The whole Mercedes management is pushing hard for me to find a solution but it seems harder than it should be,” he said.

Mercedes customers Williams remains one of the few likely options left for him next year. “There are still talks probably with them or wherever I could go,” Ocon admitted. “But they are less and less.”

Ocon said he has performed better in his second full season of Formula 1 and is disappointed not to have the opportunity to follow his rivals from the junior categories into front-running teams.

“I’m not upset against anyone or anything. I’ve worked really hard to get here. I keep working really hard to perform those last two years.

“This year I’ve progressed compared to last year. It’s 11-3 against Sergio [Perez] in qualifying. I’m fighting hard to do the best I can every race. Arriving here not knowing what I will do next year it’s hard to swallow.

“And also seeing all my old rivals – Max [Verstappen], Pierre [Gasly], Charles [Leclerc], people I’ve been racing with since day one – they are in top teams and top cars, fighting for podiums and victories. That makes me more hungry than ever and makes me push hard every day.

“Even if I don’t have a seat next year I will push hard to get back.”

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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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37 comments on “Ocon sees “less and less” opportunity to stay in F1 next year”

  1. That really is too bad…

    1. The Strolls are the problem. Daddy buys FI so Lance can drive a decent car and can’t be fired if he doesn’t perform well. This is not what Formula 1 should be. It’s understood that the guy with gold makes the rules but this is grotesque. Ocon would out-drive Lance blindfolded yet he’ll likely be an onlooker next year. How long will Daddy Stroll fund FI once Lance proves he’s a dud?

      1. @greenflag – Maybe Stroll (the younger) isn’t a dud. Remember the lesson of Maldonado – a race winner against expectations. Plenty of egg on my face when he won that race for Williams in 2012, holding off Alonso and Raikkonen. Maldonado was quick but had serious shortcomings in other areas. We don’t yet know what Stroll can do in a decent car but his record on the way here is reasonable. The numbers look good but some of the championships he’s won were not strongly fought – weak competition. I think it’s still too early to tell how much skill he has.

        1. How will we know how good Lance is compared to his teammate – the only meaningful standard. Daddy’s the new boss. Will Perez have team orders not to humiliate Lance?

    2. This news depresses and distresses me. F1 surely is not what it once was, for now if you can afford a seat, it matters not what your talent or skill is…..the only concern is the size of the checkbook you can bring. Shameful. Embarrassing.

  2. Gutted for Ocon. Merc should have him as test driver next year, give him practice session and test outings with a works seat in 2020 if Bottas doesn’t up his game. Then what to do about Russell? Merc needs a junior team if they’re going to keep this up.

    1. @cliffery – Agreed. It’s a shame that Toto Wolff doesn’t have a financial stake in Williams any more. Ocon is one of the drivers who should be moving up the grid, not off it. I hope he can find a position, even if it’s a year out in some other formula. But really, drivers like him deserve better.

  3. Jelle van der Meer (@)
    13th September 2018, 13:04

    That is really really sad but also do not understand it.

    I understand that the link to Mercedes makes Toro Rosso not want to invest in him to only lose him 1-2 years later. But why does Red Bull not say – we want you – put him in Toro Rosso on the condition that any contracts or ties with Mercedes are severed.

    Yes that would be stealing a Mercedes protege and Mercedes will not like it however it is Toto Wolff screaming from the roof it is a shame if Ocon doesn’t get a drive – so he should reflect that in his actions and fully unconditionally release Ocon.

    This allows Red Bull to sign him for the next 3 years and put him in Toro Rosso and if Gasly/Verstappen leave or are kicked out they can move up Ocon.

    1. Exactly.

      The problem for Ocon is Mercedes. Toto needs to accept that and cut him loose from any contractual obligations.
      Having Ocon at STR would be an excellent move – keeps the pressure on Max and Gasly and gives him a potential upward path if either or them move on from RBR.

    2. @jelle-van-der-meer

      My point exactly. Have been saying this for almost a month now. Loan him out to STR. Win-win for all. Only downside being the knowledge he would gain about Honda (and RB). Its a huge downside but Ocon isnt going to spy :-P

  4. I’d be very disappointed if Ocon doesn’t manage to find a drive in 2019, especially as Gasly and Leclerc have earned (deserving) promotions. Unfortunately, sometimes that’s just the way the cookie crumbles. While Mercedes are winning races and championships, they’re not going to kick one of the drivers out to make way for an unknown. Teams lower in the pecking order have different priorities and will occasionally be forced to take a driver with a bigger budget over the “next big thing”, or have allegiances with other teams.

    This has always been the case in Formula One and often a driver who looks talented finds himself forced out. If he makes the right decisions, he has every opportunity to be back on the grid in 2020, maybe even in a top car if Hamilton retires, or Bottas doesn’t perform etc.

    It seems that his hopes now rest with Williams (probably), but in truth, is he not better off out of the sport entirely with a year somewhere else, than trailing around at the back of the grid soiling his reputation?

    1. It seems that his hopes now rest with Williams (probably), but in truth, is he not better off out of the sport entirely with a year somewhere else, than trailing around at the back of the grid soiling his reputation?

      @ben-n – bit conflicted about this, to be honest. Yes, running with Williams might not be the greatest, but Ocon has proven himself with FI already in the last year and a half. He threw the marker down to Perez last year, and Perez has been forced to up his game. So, even if Ocon is stuck in a Williams, it won’t be a Vandoorne situation.

    2. I don’t think Gasly deserved the promotion, he seem good only because of poor teammate. STR produced good cars under James Key and Honda engine is not bad!
      For once I wish FI has previous ownership, who always encouraged talent over money which ofcourse caused their departure.

      1. The Honda engine is way more reliable now but is still the weakest on the grid.

        1. True, that’s the reason Gasly performs better on some of the circuits which are not harsh on engine!

  5. Ocon and Vandoorne need to be around next year… would be criminal to lose both.

    1. Quite so. I’m not sure Kimi will last long at Sauber – he doesn’t need the money and he won’t be leading any races. I wonder if the announcement of him going there was to gather a couple of sponsors? Besides, who will be in the other Sauber seat? Merc ought to buy Ocon a Williams seat next year, and cover Williams’ loss from the departing driver.

    2. Vandoorne is reporting the same than Occon (very slim chance to be on the grid next year)

  6. Proof that F1 is a chaotic, cut throat, bureaucratic circus that can’t get out of its own way.
    Try as they may, Liberty can’t fix it because big money teams rule the roost. A farce at best and a dying one at that.

  7. Wolff begs Zak to give Ocon a seat only to be rejected.
    I wonder why? Oh, now I know. Merc refused to provide McLaren with an engine when Honda failed.
    As Zak said at the time “they (Merc) like things the way they are “ (McLaren at the back of the field).
    And Wolff thinks McLaren will do them a favor.
    An idea – shed Bottas and put Ocon in his seat. Maybe they are afraid he will give Hamilton too much competition.

    1. That’s not the reason McLaren declined. It’s more to do with activating the option on Norris to keep him, bringing experience with Carlos and not wanting to see Ocon leave after 2 years.

    2. I thought that Mercedes was already supplying the maximum allowed number of teams with engines – helping McLaren would have meant cutting off another team. Maybe that’s not right – my memory isn’t very reliable.

  8. Damnit, Ricciardo :-)

  9. Isn’t STR an option as well? I’m sure Dr Marko could find a way of cutting Ocon’s ties with Mercedes, and he would be a good backup of Gasly underperfoms or Max goes to another team.

    Funny to see as well that Zak managed to put Norris on the grid, Marchionne put Leclerc first in a Sauber and arguably on the Ferrari, Helmut Marku has been finding seats for his drivers constantly, most recently Max and Gasly on the RBR. It is your move Toto, you already lost Wherlein

    1. And Rusell, try not to lose that one two

  10. Oh boy. Life is indeed harder when you don’t come with bags of money. I’d be really disapointed if Ocon is missing from the next generational shift (as he quite eloquently puts it, Leclerc, Verstappen and Gasly are going to duke it out for championships next year, and the best he can hope for is a Williams seat).

  11. some of the most talented drivers of this generation Wehrlein , Ocon and Vandoorne are out. Yet many pay drivers are staying. It’s very unfortunate for F1. People wanna see the best drivers, not pay drivers.

    1. I agree wherlein and ocon should get back in f1, but vandoorne was honestly subpar, there’s only 20 seats in f1, not 100, being a good motorsport driver is not enough! Then there’s the too much money problem too ofc (stroll).

  12. Mercedes should just let him go. Then his chances would increase quite a bit as STR would then become an option, and so would Haas and Sauber become more realistic options as well.

  13. This situation as mentioned by everyone above just goes to show that there really needs to be more teams in F1. Seems to me that high costs are the main reason why there isn’t. Something really has to change in this regard sooner rather than later to avoid the potential for formula 1 to die a sad death.

    1. Most can’t afford it as it’s ridiculously expensive. Liberty is trying to fix that but the old guard will have none of it.
      How ironic Indy car is gaining in popularity and F1 the opposite.

  14. Strange that no one mentions Perez and the only reason he has a seat is the sponsors that follow him.
    If Ocon had similar sponsors, he’d have a seat next year, like all the other drivers who bring a suitcase full of cash.

    1. Perez may have retained his seat by getting the administrators in allowing $troll to buy in without too much fuss. A nice ‘thank you’.

    2. You must be delusional by stating that the only reason is the sponsors. More points, podiums, development… Ocon may be fast, but he is a brat and outqualifying your team mate is not resin enough to stay. He never cared about force India, he only saw it as a bridge to Mercedes and the team knows it, why would FI keep him instead of Pérez, who has given so much to the team?

      1. *reason enough
        Where is the edit button again?

  15. OK… I was quite happy for Valtteri when he got to keep his seat for next year as I think he’s a great driver who’s suffered more than his share of bad luck unfortunately. I love how well he & Hamilton get on. Everything in the Mercedes garage has seemed a lot more homogeneous since the departure of Rosberg & personally I think Lewis could have just as easily lost the championship last year if had Valtteri managed to take a few more points off him, just the same as if Vettel made one or two less mistakes (I still think the better driver won & Seb bottled what was his to lose).
    That said, I find myself wishing Mercedes had taken a chance on Ocon. Of course now Bottas would be in his shoes & I don’t think that’s any more or less fair. It’s just that I rate Ocon very highly from his GP3 stint even though the media hype was all about Verstappen. I don’t know if Esteban would prove quicker than Valtteri over one lap head to head but thus far my unscientifically-trained eye gives him the edge on racecraft. I think him at Mercedes, with Verstappen, Gasly & Leclerc where they are respectively would give us an almighty cracker of a season next year. As highly as I rate Bottas, he’s starting to look like the odd one out!

  16. Once you are in F1 and subsequently find yourself without a drive, your contractual ties to a party should be lifted. Mandatory rule by FIA. Those who don’t like it are welcome to compete elsewhere. Simple fix

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