Cyril Abiteboul, Esteban Ocon, Monza, 2019

Ocon cannot replace Hamilton or Bottas at Mercedes in 2021


Posted on

| Written by and


Esteban Ocon’s two-year deal to drive for Renault does not include an escape clause which would allow him to return to Mercedes in 2021.

Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff confirmed Ocon will be unable to return to the team in 2021 if Lewis Hamilton or Valtteri Bottas leave at the end of the 2020 F1 season, when their current contracts team expire.

“No there is no clause,” Wolff confirmed at Monza. “He is a full-fledged Renault works driver for the next two years and with certain options afterwards on both sides. No clause to come back in 2021.”

Ocon has worked in the team’s simulator this year. His responsibilities have included testing upgrades before they were applied to the car at the track.

Wolff said Ocon’s impending move to a rival team means his work on development parts will be curtailed.

“Esteban and I discussed a week ago how long he should stay in the various roles,” said Wolff. “I said ‘the longer you stay, the more information you’re taking with you’ and he said ‘well of course I’m going to take all this information with me’. So it’s a transition.

“He’s in our simulator and that is an important role in helping us to develop the car. But step by step Esteban is going to fade out of the meetings about the future, things that impact next year’s car or that are deemed to be sensitive from the engineering or innovation point of view.

“But he’s with us this season and does some very valuable work that we need in order to win the championship.”

Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and go ad-free

2021 F1 season

Browse all 2021 F1 season articles

Author information

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...

Got a potential story, tip or enquiry? Find out more about RaceFans and contact us here.

40 comments on “Ocon cannot replace Hamilton or Bottas at Mercedes in 2021”

  1. Of course, in F1 such impossibilities become possible with the suitable application of money, and horse trading.

    To paraphrase the Pirates of the Caribbean, these F1 contracts… “they’re more of guidelines.”

    1. Thank you, Monisha Kaltenborn! :)

      1. I think esteemed jurist Frau Dr. Kaltenborn would hold that you don’t need any money or horsetrading; you can just hire another person for the same seat and then let the two of them fight it out in court. It’s clever if you think about it.

  2. So Hamilton and Vettel in 2021 ????? Where is the emojiof ‘The Scream’ when you need it.

    1. No chances.

      1. Right now Bottas looks like a much better option than Vettel. Bottas lacks a bit of race pace, but he generally keeps it between the ditches.

        1. @dmw – “Bottas lacks a bit of race pace, AND he generally keeps it between the ditches.

          It is a feature, not a bug for Mercedes.

    2. 😱 🤑 😮
      Take your pick.

    3. Sadly the way Vettel’s stock has been falling I don’t think any of the top teams will be interested in signing him after 2021 :-(
      Russell will be more experienced by then, but who else could be in the frame?

    4. Hamilton and Ricciardo, maybe, but there’s no way Merc would want HAM and VET together.

    5. I wont be surprised if Vettel quits at the end of next year, providing they don’t “recommend” that he takes next year off. The latter is highly unlikely, perhaps something that may have happened under previous stewardship (LdM did pay Kimi 50 million bucks to go rallying!). If Vettel leaves at the end of this year, I’d think Hulk would be an ideal replacement for the short term. Leclerc-Ric for 2021?

      The thing is, I used to always think that hiring Hamilton would serve as a gold plated marketing coup for Ferrari. However, I am not sure that his current image would suit them. I feel that his, for the lack of a better word, “gangsta rapper”/ quasi-hipster, persona suits Mercedes to a tee, simply because how they have repositioned their brand over the last 5 to 8 years. Mercedes used to be the car your dad drove, now it’s the car your mates drive! So I don’t see Hamilton leaving Merc. He will retire after he wins 8 world championships, which will be the end of 2021.

      Bottas will probably remain as his teammate, since he is the perfect number 2, why rock the boat? Bottas may be replaced for 2021 if his performances tail off next year.

      So, if Hamilton retires end 2021, that would open the door for Ocon to step in. Bottas would probably be jettisoned that this stage, paving the way for Russell. So expect Ocon-Russel at Merc in 2022 (providing Merc are still interested).

      1. The thing is, I used to always think that hiring Hamilton would serve as a gold plated marketing coup for Ferrari. However, I am not sure that his current image would suit them. I feel that his, for the lack of a better word, “gangsta rapper”/ quasi-hipster, persona suits Mercedes to a tee, simply because how they have repositioned their brand over the last 5 to 8 years.

        Maybe the “lack for a better word” is due to the fact that these two archetypes are almost polar opposites on the spectrum. This take is insulting for obvious reasons. Not to mention the use of vernacular that is about 15 years out-of-date. Your take is embarrassing.

    6. Mercedes wouldn’t hire Vettel… unless they intentionally want to throw away championships.

  3. well done russell, well done

    1. I don’t think Mercedes would risk it with the inexperienced George Russell. They made it so that when there could be a free space in the team Ocon won’t be available. Verstappen’s contract ends the same year. Are they being tactical?

  4. Of course, he’s going to be kept in the dark about everything concerning next year’s car to the greatest extent possible just like Hulkenberg at Renault.

    1. Haha, yes! Because everyone wants to know why Renault have the edge in aerodynamics, mechanical grip and such :)

      1. He meant Ocon at Mercedes. If Ocon were involved with next year’s car, that would indeed by interesting for Renault.

        1. I got that he meant Ocon, did you get that I meant Hulkenberg in reference to the last part of his comment? ;)

      2. @mcbosch Haha! At least I got it!

  5. Yeah because, ya know, no driver has ever done something that wasn’t explicitly in his contract… *cough*Rosberg*cough*

  6. Even if they could, why would they want to do it?!?!

    If Hamilton leaves – they need a new top driver
    If Bottas leaves – they need a new top-supporter driver

    While Ocon is of course capable of filling in “top-supporter” role, there are a lot of other fish out there. Besides why would Bottas want to leave? To get a “better chance of a championship shot”?.. No such team exists.
    At the same time Ocon is unable to fill the “top” role. So Mercedes will undoubtedly have to look for another option (the market of which is very limited to 2-3 current drivers)

  7. Why would they. Bottas is reliable. He was always this good. He is however no Nico Rosberg. For Hamilton atleast there is no worry of team imploding. If there is a threat it will come from Ferrari or RedBull.

    If they could snag another top driver, that might be good also. But anyone else Bottas is pretty great.

    No top driver was ever dropped from a team and not picked up for the next season. Ocon did not leave F1 for a year because he wanted to rest, he left because no team found him worthy to make room for.

    Ferrari for example made room for Alonso no problem, RedBull made room for Verstappen mid season, Mercedes/Schumacher “made” room for Hamilton. Charles Leclerc made his own room it seems.

    Meanwhile Ocon despite being good never really showed enough brilliance right away when it mattered.

    Bottas had plenty of great Williams drives before Mercedes, he looked somewhat decent (like Ocon). If they were both competing for the same seat based on pre-Mercedes experience where exactly is anyone better than Bottas was then?

    1. No top driver was ever dropped from a team and not picked up for the next season. Ocon did not leave F1 for a year because he wanted to rest, he left because no team found him worthy to make room for.

      Key part of the reason was his mercedes contract. Without the merc contract ocon might have even had a chance to get into the red bull.

    2. Arrows made room for Damon Hill

      1. McLaren made room for Mansell, although it wasn’t enough….

  8. There has been some talk about mercedes and whether they are going to be in f1 after 2021. But I think the question about renault’s involvement 2021 onwards is just as important. Renault is not getting its money’s worth at the moment and they seem to be in some sort of holding pattern in regards to the new budget rules coming in near future.

    1. I think Liberty is quite possibly nervously awaiting confirmation that several teams are going to continue.

      Renault – the budget cap wasn’t as low as they’d hoped
      Mercedes- already achieved pretty much everything they wanted to – realistically only way for them is down
      RBR/Toro Rosso – the big boss may tire of spending money on them unless he can see them getting back to the top.
      Ferrari – who knows – they might actually realise that they don’t “need” to be in F1
      Racing Point – if another GFC happens – will Stroll start cutting his spending
      Others – if their PU supplier leaves, where are they left

      No wonder no ones all that bothered about driver contracts for 2021

      1. I don’t get the point you’re trying to make. Is it “F1 might not exist past 2021?”
        If so, I think you’re reaching a lot.

        1. Thomas I think @dbradock ‘s point is that we don’t know which teams will be run by the same management as at present.

          Different bosses tend to have different ideas about who they want to hire, so if, for example, Renault sells out to Toyota, then Toyota may want different drivers to who Renault would pick had it still been controlling the F1 team. Even if every single one continues as is, it means delay to the point where the 2021 driver situation gets interesting. Not much point getting attached to a driver being at a given team if the new owners decide to buy the contract out and put someone else there instead.

          (Also, if the new Pantera team comes on-stream, some new seats become available with unknown priorities from its management, which in theory could change).

      2. Thomas – not saying that F1 will cease to exist. What I’m suggesting is that I believe that at least 1 of the major teams “owners” may elect to leave at the end of 2020.

        F1 will continue to exist, albeit in a weakened form if 2021 is without a (say) Mercedes or a Red Bull.

  9. As a side effect of this, doesn’t this essentially mean Bottas is in for the long term unless Mercedes can swoop in for Verstappen? They’ll be pretty lost if Hamilton walked away.

    Though given Ocon’s arrogance I’m quietly amused that he seems destined to be kept out of the Mercedes for the short term and the more I hear of Renault’s opinion of Hulkenberg the more I dislike them. I hope McLaren continue to spank them with their own engine.

    1. What exactly have you heard about hulkenberg from renault?

          1. Thanks @phylyp.
            Should have looked a bit further before sharing this. And I always thought that I’d easily recognise fake news :(

            Interestingly, I did try to find the Sky interview but couldn’t find it; just assumed that it didn’t exist in English.
            Also I noticed that of the many websites (7) that covered this story some cut the link.

          2. And I always thought that I’d easily recognise fake news :(

            @coldfly – happens to the best of us.

  10. 2021 would be the logical time for Hamilton to retire, but with no reason Mercedes wouldn’t continue to be dominant in the new era, and with 4 titles on the trot will surely be eager to for the record 8th title, but the question is if Mercedes marketing plans have a younger Verstappen in mind for 2021..

    Bottas will be there for however long Hamilton is there or even Verstappen for that matter. No better wingman/butler in the business.

    1. Actually a major change to technical regulations could certainly destroy Mercedes advantage over the rest of the field, so it would be more a question of how confident Hamilton and the team are that they can respond to that challenge.

      The same applies to drivers in other teams – would Max realistically want to jump ship when RBR have one of the best designers we’ve ever seen?

  11. @dbradock But it’s Red Bull and the 80% working Newey that’s not done well with the last changes, so all odds is that Mercedes with its huge resources that will come out on top yet again.

Comments are closed.