Esteban Ocon, Force India, Circuit of the Americas, 2018

“I guarantee Ocon will be in a good car in 2020” – Wolff

2019 F1 season

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Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff says he will ensure Esteban Ocon is able to return to Formula 1 in a “good car” in 2020, even if he has to sit out a season.

The Mercedes junior driver faces losing his Force India seat at the end of the year. His only remaining chance for a place on the grid for the 2019 F1 season is at Williams, who have already confirmed George Russell as one of their drivers.

During the summer Wolff believed terms had been agreed for Ocon to move to Renault next year, before the team surprised the paddock by signing Daniel Ricciardo from Red Bull.

“They say only fools are optimistic and in July I was really optimistic about having Esteban in a Renault,” said Wolff.

“So I don’t know. It’s not our call. Williams need to make up their mind who they think is the best driver for the team.”

Williams’ current driver Sergey Sirotkin and test driver Robert Kubica are among the likely contenders for a place alongside Russell.

“It’s not only Esteban,” Wolff admitted, “there is Robert in the frame and others and all of them deserve the chance. Williams will make their choice.

“We are prepared for Plan B with Esteban. One thing I can guarantee is that he’s going to be in a good car in 2020 because there’s many teams out there that have an interest in Esteban.”

Ocon has did not want to sign a multi-year deal with Williams as Russell has as he wants to be ready to take advantage of opportunities which may become available in 2020.

Force India indicated on Sunday the team will run Lance Stroll, who is expected to take Ocon’s place, in the end-of-season test at Yas Marina. Stroll is the son of Lawrence Stroll, who led a group of investors which took over Force India in August.

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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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39 comments on ““I guarantee Ocon will be in a good car in 2020” – Wolff”

  1. Lance in pratice… i hope he doesn’t smash the car during that pratice.

    1. Force India indicated on Sunday the team will run Lance Stroll, who is expected to take Ocon’s place, in the end-of-season test at Yas Marina.

      The key but of that quote is in bold…

  2. “Icon will be in a good car in 2019” …

    He just won’t actually be RACING one …

    1. A mazda is a good car, well mine is

  3. “I guarantee Ocon will be in a good car in 2020”

    Oh, Bottas! Maybe you should have taken out Vettel when he passed you on Sunday.

    1. It doesn’t look good for Bottas, does it? It’s not like Toto is guaranteeing just a seat, but a good seat so there is not many options he would be able to guarantee besides Bottas’ seat.

    2. Hamilton is first in the championship and likely to win the title with two races left.
      Bottas is fourth in the championship and in a win-range of Verstappen sitting fifth in the standings.
      Mercedes surely wants more, no matter the circumstances over the course of the season.

    3. @phylyp I can see that too… Unless Toto knew that Lewis was to retired, I think this time Toto could faces big consequences for putting Bottas on that kind of environment. Knowing that his only chances to leave a mark is just in 2019.

  4. signing Daniel Ricciardo from Renault

    From Red Bull. @keithcollantine

  5. So I don’t know. It’s not our call.

    It’s Wolff’s call to replace Bottas with Ocon.

    I know Bottas is very much liked by the fans, but he is not at the level required to be in a top 3 car.
    At COTA once more he wasn’t there: his main role was to keep Vettel behind and he failed; complaining about his tyres (forgetting that Verstappen on softer and older tyres in an inferior car was able to keep Lewis behind).

    I would treat Bottas the same as Raikkonen; send him to Williams and hire a future number 1 for the 2nd Mercedes seat. Why wait until 2020?

    1. Ambrogio Isgro
      23rd October 2018, 10:47

      Not sure Ocon is fastest than Bottas. In his 2nd season is doing well against Perez in Force India but he’s not better than him, and that is not enough to be considered faster than the Finn, until you’re not considering Perez a top driver. The french is also still prone to errors and stupid fights against his teammate.
      Well, next season Ricciardo vs Hulkenberg, Verstappen vs Gasly, Vettel vs Leclerc, Sainz vs Norris (hopefully McLaren will give them a decent car), Raikkonen vs Giovinazzi will tell us more on the actual levels of f1 drivers (I expect that Perez smash Stroll, while we have to wait to see who will drive alongside Kvyat and Russell). Is too difficult to compare who drives in the top 3 and the other teams.
      Probably he will get a 2019 in Mercedes as a tester and if Bottas doesn’t deliver for 2020 he’s there. Or if Russell or someone else struggles during the next year he will be ready to get the job.
      He’s better than Stroll or Sirotkin and could match most of the midfielder drivers, but I’m not sure if he’s the right guy for Mercedes post Hamilton (2021?) against Verstappen.

      1. Exactly what I have been saying. When nothing extraordinary happens (mechanical or strategy issues) the difference between OCO and PER is thousands of a second and they qualify next to each other. Racing wise they are also evenly matched. And there’s also the fact that Ocon has been struggling to manage his problems with Sergio and keeps commiting mistakes.
        I am not sure at all that MER is convinced Esteban is a better option than Valteri…

    2. @coldfly This is a little harsh on Bottas, after Mercedes had to modify their new (Singapore) hubs the car was back to melting it’s tyres in comparison to Red Bull and Ferrari. Bottas’s tyres were in worse condition than Kimi’s and Max’s, he could do nothing more defending against Vettel, they were finished.

  6. Well Toto either knows something no one else knows or he’s just plain silly.

    How could he guarantee that?

    I’d be very very nervous if I was Ocon.

    1. Was it a one year deal or a multi-year deal at Williams that Ocon turned down? I still think Ocon should have taken the contract.
      While all the rumours suggest Lance has the other seat at FI, no announcement has been made, so I guess Ocon’s still got a slim chance there too.

    2. Well Toto either knows something no one else knows or he’s just plain silly.

      How could he guarantee that?

      I’d be very very nervous if I was Oconhmm, how could he Guarantee a seat in a fast car? pah!, it´s almost as if he was in charge of the best team on the grid or something


  7. Uff he must be so relieved now

  8. Poppycock. Hollow words. Verbal guarantees amount to nothing.

  9. Still think Ocon’s mad and mighty disrespectful to think sitting out a year is preferable to a Williams/Toro Rosso seat. He doesn’t know what’s going to happen in 2019, nor does Toto, there’s no guarantee of a seat in 2019 unless Mercedes is planning on ditching Bottas. Even if he does get the 2020 Mercedes he’s going to be a year out of date with very different cars/tyres to what he’s used to now. People in F1 have super short memories – he could find himself old news very quickly.

    Then again the whole refusal of Williams/Toro Rosso smacks of supreme arrogance… unless he knows something we don’t. Who knows, a deal could have already been done and that’s why Bottas is so off-colour lately.

    1. He’s not refusing Toro Rosso, they are refusing to consider him while he’s part of the Mercedes Program, something I’m sure he wouldn’t be able to get out of unless Toto agrees to let him go, something he’s already said he won’t do.

      Williams he’s refusing but again Toto’s probably the one that’s really pulling that string. Frankly driving for Williams may actually be a very bad move – their car really doesn’t showcase any talent and I doubt they’ll make any huge inroads next year as it takes several years for teams to recover.

    2. Ambrogio Isgro
      23rd October 2018, 10:52

      He’s not in Toro Rosso because he’s a Mercedes driver, he didn’t refuse anything just RB will not take a driver that will go to Mercedes if is fast enough. And with the level of actual Williams, well probably is better to stay as a test driver in a top team than to struggle with that car. See what happened to Vandoorne and how is regarded Sirotkin.

    3. Apparently he thinks sitting out a year is preferable to a multi year Williams contract because he wants to be available when Bottas gets ousted at Mercedes, which seems the only option for 2020 imho.

      Although Toto says other teams are interested, I doubt that.
      Neither Ferrari or Honda teams are interested in a Mercedes driver and Renault and McLaren have committed to their drivers for the long term. Leaving only Williams and Force India as valid options for 2020. But the latter are likely to keep their drivers also in 2020 so apart from Mercedes only Williams remains an option.

  10. I hope he gets back on the grid but he’s done absolutely nothing to deserve, say, a Mercedes seat. Not on Bottas’ level. Bottas thrashed Massa; Ocon has been beaten by Perez last year and probably this.

    1. @tflb I don’t think the consensus around F1 would agree with your comment. Ocon has soundly beaten Perez on one lap pace in qualifying and been unlucky in races. Ocon has had Perez rattled this year in only his second season in F1, the radio whinging when Sergio is behind ‘speaks volumes’ and has becoMe amusing!. Perez must be looking forward to Stroll joining the team.

      1. “Ocon has beaten Perez on one lap pace” – true. But Ocon has “been unlucky” ? Do you mean in Austin ? Perez has had a lot of bad luck this year as well.

        In terms of race pace Ocon is significantly slower. See Austin, Russia, and Italy, for example. Perez was caught up his teammate from far behind. I don’t recall a race in which Ocon has had better pace. But what is true is that race pace is a big issue Ocon has faced from the beginning, which is Perez’s strength. And honestly, if I were to choose a strength I’d obviously go for race pace that one-lap pace. No surprise to me that Perez is four (or eight) points ahead of highly overrated Ocon.

  11. Pat Ruadh (@fullcoursecaution)
    23rd October 2018, 12:41

    “I guarantee Ocon will be in a good car in 2020”

    HWA Formula E testing must be going well then

  12. Toto said a good car, not a great car, so I read that as not a Merc in 2020 if he doesn’t drive next year.

    Did Bottas sign a 1 year or 2? I thought 2??

    1. @garnsBottas has a 1-year contract for only 2019.

      Bottas has signed a new one-year deal with the team, with an option to continue in 2020.

      1. @phylpy
        Just said in another post, Bottas too much of a nice guy. He can excel but needs to get a little more nasty to beat Lewis.

  13. I am sure that Brexit will probably be still going on in 2020, and President Trump will still be on Twitter, but no one knows how F1 will look in fourteen or so months time. Ferrari are stronger, Red Bull are not far behind, we will have different cars and different drivers in teams right the way through the grid.
    From Toto’s words I am getting the vibe that Ocon is already going to be a Mercedes reserve driver next year, that is the impression I am getting. How highly does Williams rate Robert Kubica? Know one except Williams knows that imformation. Robert was a great driver years ago, but he hasn’t raced a grands prix car since 2011.
    For those that think Williams will turn their fortunes around quickly, I have my doubts. They are not the Williams we saw years ago with Renault power and the Rothmans livery. They are miles away from the BMW powered years when Montoya and Ralf Schumacher drove from them.
    You really would have to have the optimism of Terry Waite to believe that they can challenge even the midfield. Ocon stays at Mercedes, simple as that.

  14. “I guarantee Ocon will be in a good car in 2020. We’ll lease him a new Mercedes A Class for his trips to the DTM tracks”. After all, Pascal Wehrlein was once the next golden child but look how that turned out? Ocon better stay seriously sharp next year and make a lot of noise I think.

    1. He already makes a lot of noise but doesn’t deliver the performances and results to back it up.

  15. Seems like quite a strange thing for Toto to say. It makes him a hostage to fortune and it potentially piles more pressure on Bottas. Maybe that’s the idea but he cannot expect Bottas to be a compliant ‘wingman’ and also somone who starts to challenge Hamilton.

    I don’t think there is any sort of guarantee he can give to Ocon at all. It’s just a sound bite.

  16. Hey, maybe Mercedes will start a “B” team, like Torro Rosso! Well, I can hope!

  17. Maybe Mercedes AMG seat is a possibility, but more likely he may end up at Renault. They know him there from the past and Hülkenberg has been around for too long without a single podium…

  18. Makes sense to put Ocon in the Mercedes car for 2020. He was anyway going there, and to do it with Hamilton still there will be a good measure for all.

    Also, Bottas is likely to tire of being wingman/butler indefinitely and might start to do something silly so better get rid of him before that happens.

  19. Well who is he going to replace at MB?
    i can’t imagine that Hamilton would retire within sight of a record-equalling seven titles, so would it be Bottas that get’s the shove, or is Toto speaking in riddles?
    Let’s pretend that a team currently involved in F1 falls on really hard times and either has to be bailed out by or is actually taken over by Mercedes Benz, and then Toto makes good his promise by moving his driver in there.
    Well, that’s good and bad for F1.
    If that happens, I’d feel disappointed that a famous name had become a ‘vassal’ team to another one. But I’d feel happy that MB were making a very long term commitment to F1.
    To be honest, I can’t see either scenario happening as I think that MB will win everything his season and the next and then withdraw having proved everything they needed to, thus avoiding the crippling investment needed for the 2020 season.
    MB is a canny organisation. They can see the swing away from ICE cars – rightly or wrongly – and will look to the future. They will shift their marketing focus (F1 is only marketing) elsewhere as things develop.
    MB in FE? Yes. MB in sailing? Yes, that too.

  20. Code for HAM will be retiring after the 2019 season?

  21. Probably code for “HAM will retire after the 2019 season”…

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