Esteban Ocon, Force India, Sochi Autodrom, 2018

Ocon steps back to Mercedes reserve role for 2019

2019 F1 season

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Esteban Ocon will take up a test and reserve role for Mercedes in the 2019 F1 season after making his last race start for Force India this weekend.

Ocon will lose his place at Force India to Lance Stroll at the end of the year. He missed out on his last chance to gain a race seat yesterday when Williams announced Robert Kubica will drive for them next year.

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff said the plans for Ocon’s future are now “pretty clear.”

“He’s going to be very close to the works team for Mercedes, he’s going to be our reserve driver and third driver,” said Wolff. “We hope to do the odd test with him also we are looking at this season and next season but that is not sorted out yet. He will spend a lot of time in the simulator and be ready for a seat in 2020.”

Mercedes has Lewis Hamilton under contract for two more years and Valtteri Bottas on a one-year deal with an option for a further season in 2020. Ocon, a Mercedes junior driver, entered F1 with Manor in 2016 and has spent the last two seasons with Force India.

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Dieter Rencken has held full FIA Formula 1 media accreditation since 2000, during which period he has reported from over 300 grands prix, plus...
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15 comments on “Ocon steps back to Mercedes reserve role for 2019”

  1. He’s not the first, nor will he be the last talented driver to face a year out. He can take heart that Hulkenberg, Hakkinen and many others were forced out briefly, but returned better.

    He’s in a good environment for 2019 and will find out more closely how a top team operates, which may prove invaluable at his next “job”, be it at Mercedes itself or one of their customer teams.

  2. Ocon steps ‘back’ to Mercedes for 2019? Watch it Valterri, he might crash in to you in his desire to get ahead ;-)

  3. If they are talking about a seat for 2020 how does that make Bottas feel?
    Sounds like bad driver management still, if they say Ocon will drive for them in 2020, what motivation does Bottas have for the next season? If they are talking about a seat elsewhere, they only have the RFIDs and Williams, the former doesn’t have space for him the latter he doesn’t want them. Other teams won’t be suitable for Mercedes, unless they release them, which they don’t want to.

    What a mess, should we start Bottas’ goodbyes as well?

    At least one driver is happy, ask Max what he thinks about it

    1. I dunno, I read ‘a seat’ as being possible anywhere in F1 (most likely a team with a Merc engine, but that still leaves three). Both the other teams will have drivers in a very precarious position if they don’t perform: more likely he ends up there than at Merc, IMO/

    2. There are other options of course; remember he was in advanced talks with both Renault and McLaren, which came to nothing eventually. Many teams would jump at having Ocon as a stop-gap for whatever reason. If something happens to any driver on the grid next year, he’d make the perfect substitute at almost any team as well.

      If I had to bet, I’d guess he’ll be at Mercedes in 2020, but it’s all up in the air at the moment. If Bottas somehow raises his game to Hamilton’s level, then Mercedes have no leverage to bring Ocon in, so in many ways it’s on Bottas to prove that he deserves it more than Ocon.

    3. @johnmilk I like how we got used to see Bottas as a wingman and think he will be dismotivated playing his role in 2019 as he will probably be replaced by other wingman in 2020. :D

      what motivation does Bottas have for the next season?

      He will be driving most likely the best car of the grid and start the season tied on the lead of the championship with 0 points. His goal is (should be) to win the WDC and he is on the car everyone dreams to drive. Should be enough motivation.

      1. Well said @Dusty. I also agree that there’s other very viable options for him. Renault would have been very happy to have him until DR dropped into their laps… had Hulkenberg not been contracted I think they’d probably have been very happy with a DR EO pairing.

      2. but he needs the team behind him to do so, having mixed signals from management surely will have a dent on that confidence don’t you think?

        1. No if VB is WDC material, or even just if he is a legit F1 racer, which he is, his only option no matter what else is going on with whoever else, is to come out swinging at the start of next season and stamp his authority on the situation. He ‘simply’ has to come out stronger than LH and SV and put himself in the position to not be the one getting orders from the pits. He knows he has the equipment and that’s huge. The rest is up to him. He’ll have the teams support to not be a wingman if he is the one leading the team and not being a wingman. Or even if he and LH do an LH/NR and lock out the front row as TW would prefer. If they find SV is competitive and grabbing 1sts and 2nds, then orders will ensue in order to not see SV drive off into the sunset. And it would be up to VB to head LH so that he is not the one being ordered. Can’t see it, but anyway just saying VB’s task is straightforward and he needn’t try to figure out what Ocon’s reserve role means for the future. VB’s future only goes as far as coming out at the start of 2019 stamping his authority on the grid in what will likely be another WCC level car.

  4. if they have Ocon in the team, they will be able to tell how good he is. If from the testing they do with him he proves to be no better than Bottas, there will be no point changing the current line up, even if it doesn’t seem nice for Ocon. I only see Ocon at mercedes in 2019 if Mercedes feel he is clearly better than Bottas. And I haven’t seem enough to prove that yet.

  5. Jordan Kanowitz
    23rd November 2018, 12:29

    Are they gonna give him bottas merc seat in 2020? Why not just now

  6. I wanna see the Ocon vs. Vandoorne sim races at Mercedes :)

  7. I don’t get the hype with Ocon. He’s good, certainly deserves to be in F1 over Stroll… but Mercedes’ obsession with holding on to him seems weird. Does Ocon have something over Toto? Also… I dunno. He seems rather ‘fake nice’ to me.

    Even so turning down race drives because he wanted to wait for the ‘possible’ Mercedes seat feels arrogant, and frankly I don’t see him being any better than Bottas.

    1. I read that the Williams deal would be a multi-year deal. I think it makes perfect sense for Ocon to refuse that given there could be so many opportunities for 2020 – Not just at Mercedes.

  8. In a shock twist, Lewis retires from F1 and Ocon becomes wingman to Bottas
    :-) RedBull win the championship that year.

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