Esteban Ocon, Force India, Monza, 2018

Dual reserve driver role possible for Ocon in 2019

2019 F1 season

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Esteban Ocon could serve as reserve driver for two teams in the 2019 F1 season if he doesn’t get a race seat at Williams.

The second seat alongside George Russell in the team’s line-up for next season is Ocon’s last realistic chance of staying in a race seat. But Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff indicated the team’s junior driver looks increasingly likely to spend a season on the sidelines next year.

“It’s not in our hands,” said Wolff, who said Williams’ driver decision is up to deputy team principal Claire Williams and chief technical officer Paddy Lowe.

“I think we have pretty much have [Ocon] set for an off-season supporting us and Force India. Doing lots of simulator work, being a reserve driver for maybe us and Force India.

“And getting ready for the year after. If, miraculously, a door opens at Williams, he’s going to take it. But it’s in Claire and Paddy’s hands and not in ours.”

Ocon is set to lose his place at Force India to Lance Stroll, who is the son of the team’s new investor Lawrence Stroll. Force India’s management has said they will not confirm the identity of their second driver alongside Sergio Perez until Ocon’s plans have been announced.

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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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50 comments on “Dual reserve driver role possible for Ocon in 2019”

  1. Good God, Toto. What does the lad have to do to get a race seat? Gift you a race win?

    Oh, wait…

    (I’m joking, put away the arrows and slingshots)

    1. If that move wasn’t showing that he can be as good a wingman as Bottas then he should just cut his ties with Mercedes and accept the STR race seat offer, @phylyp.

      Weird, Dr Marko is not returning his calls :P

    2. Funny, because it is all true!

  2. I don’t understand what’s the hold-up on announcing Stroll for Force India? Is it not a done deal? What possible reasons are behind it? Are they still talking to papa Stroll about the possibility of his son NOT racing for them?

    1. @zimkazimka – I think they’re waiting for the end of the season. Doing so beforehand exposes the involved parties (Stroll, Claire, etc.) to awkward media questions, which generates needless noise and attention.

      The other reason I can think of might be related to the lawsuit brought against the team and their administrators by Mazepin, not wanting to give any ammo to the argument that the takeover was motivated by familial interests, but was done to safeguard the employees.

    2. I understand they might still be negotiating with Williams about the payoff to get Stroll out of his contract there @phylyp, @zimkazimka.

      1. @bascb – that makes much more sense, than my far-fetched speculation 😃

        1. Sorry, @phylyp, that’s only near-fetched speculation. Far-fetched speculation is how they can hinder Perez with a 50kg ballast tied to one hand, still have him race competitively for the team, yet not beat Lance by more than a half dozen places per race.

          1. @jimmi-cynic – the cross that Perez bears :-)

            Maybe they should just quietly swap car numbers for both their drivers, just to mess with our heads.

    3. @zimkazimka
      Maybe they’re too embarrassed to announce the most rubbish driver on the F1 grid has been promoted.

  3. Interesting comments from some people in the last few days on Ocon. Mercedes supposedly hesitant to support him, because despite his obvious speed and ability, they question his racecraft (he does get into a lot of incidents) and his mentality (chip on his shoulder). I’ve always liked Ocon, a lot, I think he’s blisteringly fast and really consistent, always pictured him as a future WDC. Maybe that final step is hard for him? Thought he had the measure of Perez, but that’s not necessarily enough.

    1. I agree with your analysis of his character, @hahostolze, but I don’t agree that Mercedes have doubts about him. They are showing a lot of support. There just isn’t a seat available for him next. If Merc were quietly trying to get rid of him, they wouldn’t be showing so much concern in the media.

      1. Palmer mentioned (see the article linked in the round-up) something like what @hahostolze brings up about Ocon’s racecraft and infighting with teammate Perez having been part of why they didn’t sign him up for next year themselves @shimks

        1. @shimks @bascb as Bas says, not so much my analysis, but yeah, I think it’s accurate. Ocon probably is (by far) the least priviliged driver in F1 right now (of the new guard), he’s often mentioned it in interviews and it forms an important part of who he is and his rivalries. A lot of his direct rivals are of the silver spoon type. I think that is the combative, chip-on-his-shoulder part that he needs to lose. Maybe it’s not as obvious as is Verstappen’s combativeness, but it may well be more hindering. That’s what I think, anyway.

          1. @hahostolze @bascb Ah, very interesting. Maybe we won’t see him back, then. I wouldn’t miss him.

          2. @shimks I would, I think he’s immensly talented, and I love a good rivalry (Ocon-Verstappen, maybe the brotherly rivalry of Ocon-Gasly), if only F1 just lets up a bit and accepts a bit more fight

          3. I agree that it would be a huge shame if a talent like Ocon were lost for F1. We could do with a crop of drivers who are all of top level, now just get some more cars to have more of them compete against eachother.

          4. @hahostolze @bascb Hopefully one day we will have a 26 car grid again…

    2. @hahostolze – that’s an interesting thought.

      It makes me wonder – is Mercedes/Toto hesitant about him (and Wehrlein) because they think Toto can’t handle the drivers, or because it doesn’t fit with their corporate values and morals. (OK, give me a minute, I cracked myself up talking about morals in F1!).

      In contrast, Red Bull are less fussy about combativeness between their drivers, even if that makes them the villains of the paddock.

    3. @hahostolze
      I think it is purely related to money. Williams are obviously looking a driver with bags of cash.
      It doesn’t make sense for Mercedes to spend the money on him just to have him drive in 2019–they have anyways assured him of something in 2020.
      Cost-benefit situation–What do Mercedes gain by having him drive for Williams who are already struggling? They have already ensured that he is not going to be poached by other teams especially RBR,STR and Ferrari.
      Present scenario–everyone is happy except Esteban; but only for a year according to Toto. And if this dual reserve driver deal materializes, the grass is certainly greener even for Esteban.

    4. Mercedes supposedly hesitant to support him, because despite his obvious speed and ability

      I think Mercedes are hesitant to support him, because of his lack of speed. At the end of the day, beating a midfield driver who is average at qualifying – Perez – by just 1-2 tenths every weekend is not enough. Plus it doesn’t help Ocon’s reputation that Perez is always there to pick up podiums last few years.

      You need qualifying speed. Leclerc is beating Ercisson by 4-5 tenths on many tracks and hence, he is getting a break.

      My prediction:
      Will Ocon be in the Mercedes in 2020? No.
      Will he ever be in the Mercedes? Maybe.
      Will he be in some team on the grid in 2020? Most likely yes.

    5. Lets not pretens he didn’t had any options, he thinks he is above a 2 year contract for Williams, don’t be sorry guys

    6. Thought he had the measure of Perez, but that’s not necessarily enough.

      @hahostolze

      True. I thought he was better than Perez this season, but just marginally. Being marginally better than Perez really doesn’t guarantee anything spectacular in terms of his future drives.

      I still don’t consider Ocon worthy of a Mercedes seat, and honestly, I’m not as convinced as a lot of readers here, that he’s future WDC material. When we talk about the future of F1, Max and Charles come to mind. I wouldn’t put Esteban in that same category. He’s a good driver, but hasn’t shown anything special so far.

      I think he made a big mistake of denying that Williams contract. Maybe he over estimates his abilities. Any driver in his right mind would have taken that opportunity just to beat Russell and show Mercedes he’s their #1 replacement option for Bottas should the occasion arise.

  4. I’d really like to look into the minds of the other Racing Point investors besides Lawrence Stroll. How do they feel about replacing Ocon with a clearly less talented driver? It’s the last thing you’d normally do when you invest in a team.

    1. i would love to see their faces when Perez will consistently destroy Stroll next year.

    2. Exactly. It will be interesting to see if there’s pressure brought to bear on the Strolls if Lance doesn’t perform all that well and the teams points tally suffers because of it.

      I can’t see investors being all that happy if it impacts any possible returns.

    3. Any idea what’s the split of RP between Stroll/others? Minority, technical majority of 51% or clear majority?

    4. Stroll is done at the end of the year anyway that is not an issue.

  5. After his recent antics Ocon is lucky if anyone ever again offers him a seat in F1, this really shines a light on all the troubles with Perez on-track.

    1. I don’t think it is even close to being that dramatic; he is still extremely talented.

      But I must admit that I also mentally revisited the Perez/Ocon run-ins after Ocon’s Brazilian action (and comments afterwards).

      1. But I must admit that I also mentally revisited the Perez/Ocon run-ins after Ocon’s Brazilian action (and comments afterwards).

        @coldfly – yep, add me to that list.

  6. While I am not happy at all that a driver like Ocon is forced to spend a season on the sidelines, I also feel that the issue has been exaggerated. Nico Hulkenberg did the same in 2011, then got a race seat again and drove happily ever after. Hopefully F1 will have more (competitive) teams in a few years that can accommodate drivers such as Ocon or Vandoorne but their absence from the grid in 2019 is not going to be a big tragedy.

    1. @girts good point, but did Hulk ever reach the heights people thought he would reach? Career stalled a bit because of it. Pole in his penultimate race of his first stint, then jettisoned, that definitely hurt his progress.

      1. Hulkenburg was the victim of not enough top seats, he was destined for a no. 1 seat in a top team, and not a no. 2 like boring characterless bottas.

    2. @girts Yes, indeed. Hulkenberg, yes, is one example, but so are Alonso, Massa, and Magnussen.

    3. I think Vandoorne has a seat for next year equivalent to what he showed in F1

  7. According to autobilde and AMuS, kubica has the Williams seat, they are finalising a contract this week, with small things to be worked out like which Friday fp1s to give up to paying (Russian) drivers. Better days next year for Williams with 2 real drivers. BTW, today marks the 8 year anniversary of kubica’s last f1 race! at Abu Dhabi finishing 5th. Look forward to seeing him for 3-4 years in f1, or more if he hangs around like Kimi. Apparently papa Stroll’s money has ironically helped kubica, cos he has to compensate Williams, and Kubica has stronger commitment from polish petroleum company Orlen for next year than this, after witnessing Kubica’s star power/popularity. If you watch kubica/russel/chandock Williamstv Facebook video from Mexico, Russel and Kubica were acting like they already knew.

  8. So it looks like the remaining race seats are “ocon”? Turns out Mercedes “wehrlein” about his big chances for 2019? Unless he is somehow able to “russell” up a seat as 2nd reserve driver.

    1. Kubica has rejected ferrari reserve seat for Williams race seat, word is werhlein is to be ferrari reserve. Could work well for werhlein like it did for kvyat

  9. I am interested how a reserve roll with competing teams would work. I know there have been FP sessions for drivers in multiple teams, but this seems a little more involved. Having a test driver for multiple teams seems suspect with keeping intellectual content separate. Or more curious sharing of advantageous data from the supplier to the buyers.

    With all the uproar about Haas using Ferrari’s wind tunnel and specified parts or Toro Rosso testing the Honda PU all season for RBR I wonder how this would be viewed with an experienced driver testing the arguably best car and one of their PU customer’s car in the same generation.

    1. it shoudnt be allowed because firstly its unfair for all the other test and reserve drivers trying to make it in f1, in an already highly limited testing, why should one guy get twice or 3 times as many kilometers as others. secondly, it can be construed that Mercedes will be data gathering for their engine development if a member of their team is driving for another team, and possibly chassis development, as their own driver is driving another competitors car and can give vital feedback. just stick him in DTM or super formula for a year.

  10. Ocon doesn’t belong in F1 period! Watch last race again! It’s a shame he isn’t banned from F1 immediately after last week? Unacceptable behavior will cost him his career if you can speak of a career when driving that stupid!

    1. Watch his onboard that’s been released showing the couple laps leading up to it, its verstappen that doesn’t belong in f1, verstappen was leading the race and then stupidly decides to race and then block a faster back marker, just let him through and everyone wins. Verstappen acted like they were on the same lap.

      1. The FIA is clear about it.
        You cannot fight for track position against drivers that are a lap ahead. You cannot take the racing line through corners if that blocks the other driver from driving there.
        Pass them on the straight if you are that faster.
        Ocon might have, if he had waited for another lap. But he did not.

        When Ocon left the pits he entered just ahead of Verstappen, blue lights flashing, and let him by before the next corner.
        Then the blue lights kept flashing as he was right ahead of Hamilton, who was 1.99 seconds behind Verstappen when Ocon exited the pits. We know the Merc is sensitive to wake, and Lewis was close enough to suffer. Indeed, Lewis lost half a second a lap to Max with Esteban in between.
        But Esteban did not let Lewis by, even though the blue lights kept flashing until the end of the lap. Only then were his tires fully operational and did he begin to gain on Max, and the gap to Lewis became enough to kill the blue lights.
        So he hindered Lewis and of course bumped out Max in an effort to scoop up a point.

        It was an exercise in futility anyway. He was 20 seconds behind Perez in 10th who had also just gotten new Supersofts. He could only get points if cars ahead dropped out.

        It was really bad.
        Looking at other incidents between back markers and race leaders, it is obvious those never were attempts to race the leader. Locking brakes, missed brake points, confusion about which way to yield, or reduced spreed due to atrocious visibility (Coulthard-Schumacher in Spa) but never a deliberate fighting attempt.

        Max had all the reason in the world to not expect Esteban to take the second corner like he did. It has never happened before, and hopefully will never happen again.

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