Ocon’s predicament shows there are “not enough seats” in F1

2018 F1 season

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Esteban Ocon’s difficulty finding a drive for the 2019 F1 season shows there aren’t enough seats to go around, according to his Force India team principal Otmar Szafnauer.

Williams driver Lance Stroll, whose father Lawrence led a takeover of the team last month, is expected to take Ocon’s place alongside Sergio Perez next year.

That will leave Ocon, who has impressed the team with his progress in his second full season, without a drive. Asked whether his lack of options for next year reflected a problem with the driver market system in F1, Szafnauer said: “It might show that there’s not enough seats – I don’t know if that’s ‘the system’.

“Everyone makes decisions based on what’s right for them,” he added. “There are seats available and he’s definitely talented and they chose other people for whatever reasons that were right for them.”

As RaceFans reported previously Stroll had a seat-fitting to judge he can fit in the current Force India. However Szafnauer says it’s unlikely he will replace Ocon before the end of the year. “It’s not just a unilateral decision, it’s got to be a bunch of people so I don’t think it’s likely.”

Technical director Andrew Green said Ocon had raised his game during his time with them.

“He’s matured massively since his first time with us,” said Green. “Definitely a diamond in the rough, so to speak.

“He has some fantastic traits from a racing perspective on a Sunday afternoon. He lacked a bit on outright pace in qualifying and he’s worked on that in the early part of his time with us and now I think he’s a proper, well-rounded driver now.

“He doesn’t really have any significant weaknesses that we can see. He’s changed a lot.”

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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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41 comments on “Ocon’s predicament shows there are “not enough seats” in F1”

  1. The amount seats is not the problem. Too many drivers are qualified for them is what’s wrong. The cars are too easy, too safe, too predictable. The driver’s excellence just isn’t decisive anymore. How else do you explain that 40-year old drivers and pay drivers get to monopolize the pinacle of motorsport?

    1. The driver’s excellence just isn’t decisive anymore. How else do you explain that 40-year old drivers and pay drivers get to monopolize the pinacle of motorsport?

      No can’t agree. Fangio 46, Farina 43, Brabham 40 all won WDCs. Pay drivers have been part of F1 in one way or another for many yrs.
      Also driving at 250 kph + in close proximity to others is never easy.

    2. “How else do you explain that 40-year old drivers . . . get to monopolize the pinacle of motorsport?”

      Agree with the rest of it but this last bit is nonsensical – and also agist, which, in case you don’t realise, is akin to racist…

      1. As a 66 year old I say “Oh Please” with your ageist remark. I am not offended in the least and find it hard to comprehend anyone would.
        So many sensitive ones out there who are easily offended and chomping at the bit to bring the “ist” aspect into it.

      2. Ageist? Racist? Grow up Snowflake.

      3. Oh, the humanity!

    3. Biskit Boy (@sean-p-newmanlive-co-uk)
      22nd September 2018, 20:46

      Timtheboss @hogee

      The amount seats is not the problem

      No its not.
      The problem the sport is too expensive. If it was cheaper to be more competitive then there would be more cars (and more equal cars).

      This would make pay drivers irrelevant. The cars being more equal would make driver input more important and the lower cost would obviate the need for the extra funds via a pay driver.

  2. Nonsense. There are enough seats, but they are occupied by worthless drivers with deep pockets. Do I really have to name them? I think not..

    1. No, please do name them. I can only really count a couple and even their quality is far from that of pay drivers of the past. And they accounted for a higher percentage of the field in the 80’s or 90’s. When there were more cars.

      I think it’s safe to say we need more seats, because in a sport as expensive as this, some will always get in only on financial merits. More cars lessens the effect of diluting the quality overall.

      1. Exactly @gongtong. Other than Stroll, Sirotkin and Ericsson the entire grid is there on merit, which is a fantastic thing for F1. There is a lack of teams is the issue at the moment, I long for the day we have a full 26 car grid again.

        1. Hear, hear! 13 teams, please!

          You’d think that entities would be fighting tooth and nail to get a place in the pinnacle of motorsport. Let’s hope changes are made to make this a reality again.

  3. Ocon could drive for toro rosso next season if mercedes released him. To me it seems the issue here is restrictive and mismanaged driver development programs. Not the seat availability.

    If merc loaned ocon to toro rosso then what. If ocon does well mercedes just takes him back with one more year experience and toro rosso’s and red bull secrets with him. If he does poorly he is toro rosso’s problem. Toro rosso exists only to find talent for red bull main team and ocon and his mercedes ties are 100% total antithesis to all of that. It makes no sense at all for toro rosso to touch ocon simply because of his mercedes contracts.

    1. “Ocon could drive for toro rosso next season if mercedes released him”

      Have you spoken to TR to confirm this… because I’ve not heard any comments from RB to suggest they have even considered him…?

        1. …and you believe what Horner says…? lol…

          And: I said I had not heard that RB had considered Ocon… and you’re saying Horner would not, allegedly, consider him…
          Is it ‘double-speak’…? Do two negatives herein make a positive…? ;)

          1. You need to improve your reading game. Here is what horner said according to that article:
            “Horner said Ocon would not be considered while he is contracted to a main rival.”
            Nobody else is hiring ocon. Toro rosso was his only chance. And toro rosso is having trouble finding drivers. Ocon as a free agent would be good choice for toro rosso. It is not double negative. It is really straightforward. Only reason why red bull would not consider ocon is that if they specifically did not want him (like with vandoorne).

          2. @socksolid I couldn’t see Ocon leaving Mercedes given what Toto has done for him to get to F1 in the first place.

          3. socksolid – you keep repeating yourself, to no purpose…
            “Horner said Ocon would not be considered…”
            i.e. He has NOT been considered – any more than Alonso was… lol.

            So I’ll do the same… lol.
            “…and you believe what Horner says…? lol…”

          4. You and your selective reading. At least get the quotes right. Horner said:
            “Horner said Ocon would not be considered while he is contracted to a main rival.”
            You dishonestly left out the main part of the quote that matters.

          5. The main part of my quote that matters is:
            “…and you believe what Horner says…? lol…”
            And you call ME dishonest… lmao… ;)

            But do come back again – I enjoy a good debate, and this might still become one…

  4. If who drives the car was based on who is best to drive the car, it wouldn’t be an issue.
    Force India need to first look at themselves for Ocons predicament.

    1. In a scenario where Force India turned down the Stroll deal, we’d have a Mazepin instead. Turn them both down and we’d have no Force India. Ocon and Perez would both be out of a drive and I’m sure Stroll would still line up in Australia.

      The system is broken. And as a side effect of that we also have too few cars.

      1. @gongtong

        Mazepin may have ended up in Force India should his father have bought it no earlier than 2020, as he wouldn’t have enough points for the super licence (only 21 points out of the required 40), effectively giving Ocon an additional season to find an alternative drive.

        1. Apologies @maddme (And apologies for my late reply). You are correct regarding super licence points and the affect they’d have on the situation.

          However, the comment from @sham was, I still believe, placing unfair blame on FI who had really only two choices. Both billionaires with sons in racing overalls.

  5. Too many talentless pay drivers is the problem. Ocons situation is an F1 disaster.
    So is Stroll’s and also *insert a lot of f1 drivers*’s… Im very frustrated by this as I find him vastly superior to Perez..

  6. Enough seats.
    The problem is that Ocon’s sugardaddy does not want to spend money (Force India, Williams), does not give him their own seat (Mercedes) but do not want to release him of his tie-in contract either (closing all RB and Ferrari related options).

  7. No, nepotism and companies controlling people’s careers is what’s caused Ocon’s predicament.

    Sure there could be more seats, but the seats that are there are closed to him for other reasons. You’re deflecting one problem by talking about another and acting like you’re not directly involved in the problem that arguably is an issue the sport faces in general.

  8. Not enough seats. There’s only twenty cars on the grid, and that very nearly became eighteen a few weeks ago. F1 is skating on very thin and very expensive ice. It is increasingly dependent on two or three super-powerful teams and one or two super-rich individuals and a few others to make up the numbers. The FIA have places for twenty six cars, so currently F1 is operating at just 77% capacity and that’s not good enough for the ‘pinnacle of motorsport’.
    It’s not just Ocon, there are drivers who were unable to gain a seat at all but who might have been successful if they had been able to show their potential via a full grid. Definitely not enough seats.

    1. Totally not enough seats.

      Even by dropping the obviously pay-driver like Stroll or Ericsson, accounting for all the drivers that I feel deserve a seat from the current grid, the youngsters that excites me from F2/F3/GP3, and drivers that were dropped in previous years for contingengy/strategy/priority decisions (Vergne, Buemi, Glock, Di Resta), not even 26 seats/13 teams would cut it.

  9. Ocon’s problem is Mercedes’s to blame…I would love to see him in Indycar though, with Alonso and Vandorne…can you imagine them racing the likes of Dixon, Hunter-Reay, Power, Rossi et all? I would pay good money to watch that!!

  10. This wouldn’t be quite so bad if Merc weren’t leaving DTM. I loved Race One in Austria and there is just enough talent to keep Ocon fresh. I get that it has worked out horribly for Wehrlein but at least it would be another option. Now the only places where he can realistically go in 2019 are Indycar and sports cars. And that just isn’t good enough. Glock was right!

  11. Can be solved : put a back seat in those racers… and put Stroll, Eri, hartley, Sir and van behind.. lol

  12. The logical place for Ocon is at Williams. However, Robert Kubica has a contract that says he’s to be given the role of main driver if either one of the current two drivers leave. My guess is there’s a buy out clause in Robert’s contract, so presumably no one wants to front up with the money to buy him out.
    Currently there’s 9 uncontracted seats in F1, including both RPFI seats.
    It looks as though seats are being confirmed as under contract roughly in the order the teams are now in the Constructor’s Championship, so Force India should have made some announcement by now, maybe Haas too, but they haven’t. Also, we’ve had an announcement of one of the drivers for Sauber (Kimi) but not the other seat.
    It seems to me it’s still a bit early to think Esteban’s F1 career is over. I think if the price is right Esteban will get a contract.

  13. The number of seats is not even half the issue. Even if there were 4 more seats (2 teams) pay drivers would still get the nod. The issue is boring second driver decisions at the top of the grid and pay drivers from the mid table down. Toto Wolff’s rant about other teams not progressing Mercedes’ junior drivers was laughable. Why do Mercedes even have a junior programme, because they’ve never once employed one in a senior seat? Then they moan that other teams aren’t training and giving their drivers experience on Mercedes behalf. Kudos to Ferrari for breaking the mould.

  14. It used to be the case that you got into a car because you had financial backing but you remained in the car/F1 because you had talent. That seems to have changed to the point where pay drivers remain in the sport because of their backing and not their talent. That being said, one can also look at Kimi and wonder why an old timer with no hope of winning anything is still in a car when that seat could go to a young driver who’s trying to make a name for himself. Perhaps the FIA/Liberty need to offer incentives for putting a new to F1 driver in a car. Or as has been discussed, allow third cars, so long as the driver has fewer than ‘X’ hours in F1.

  15. It’s a perfect storm of a lot of factors and it does happen from time to time.

    Firstly there’s not a great deal of movement on the retirement front because it’s no longer a case that continuing in the sport increases your risk of dropping off the pace. That happens now because most cars are nowhere near competitive so losing a 1/2 second doesn’t show up much.

    Secondly there’s a wealth of so called talented young drivers, some in F1, some not who are essentially a major block to those coming through because they aren’t being moved out. The cars themselves are now geared towards young PlayStation drivers and the amount of talent coming thru seems to be increasing.

    Third is those that come with financial backing, something that’s always been there but these days is even more critical to team survival – having the next Ayrton Senna in your car (if you’re not Merc, Ferrari or RBR) is not going to get you the odd win or Podiums like it used to, so teams have to look for funding vs talent.

    Then there’s a new factor – the team/manufacturer links that preclude them from consideration.

    Sad, actually really angry, for Ocon, but he won’t be the first to miss out on a career in F1 and definitely won’t be the last.

  16. Actually, Ocon’s predicament shows there is not enough sense in Wolff.

    Ocon is proven worthy of a top seat for long now. Mr. Bullcrap chose to re-sign the Wingman instead. There it is!

    That aside, quantity of seats are not nearly as an issue as the restrictive rules are.

    Just let single private entrants come again. What’s wrong with that?

    1. Yes, this ‘closed-shop’ attitude to new entrants is appalling.

  17. I seems to me the biggest issue isn’t necessarily pay drivers, but teams not picking the better drivers available.

    There’s only one team I’m confident will have drivers that are better or equal to Ocon last season. Coincidentially, it’s also the team for which Ocon WAS opposed to sign before Ricciardo happened.

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