French teenager Esteban Ocon has been signed up by Mercedes' F1 team, it emerged in Abu Dhabi late on Friday. Early this week, we reported that the front-running GP3 driver and reigning European F3 champion was hoping for a prominent role in formula one "very soon".
The Frenchman is one of the brightest young talents in single seaters, poised to take out the GP3 crown this weekend and now "officially (a) Mercedes F1 driver!" he declared on Twitter. "Yes," confirmed Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff, "we've taken up the option on him".
Some believe Ocon stepping up to be Mercedes' new tester means that the German marque has concluded a deal for existing team reserve Pascal Wehrlein to race for Manor in 2016. But Wolff clarified: "It doesn't mean we've found a solution for Pascal. The current driver market is a bit difficult because most of the teams have already announced their drivers and it needs to be the right deal. But having taken up Esteban we are conscious that we need to find a suitable programme for both of them. It could well mean that it could eventually end up for both of them in a testing role, in a reserve driver role and in a DTM role. So it's not done yet," he insisted. (GMM)
Bahrain International Circuit - Winter testing