Esteban Ocon has not denied that his forthcoming nine-race stint at Manor is effectively an audition for a Renault race seat for 2017. "No idea," the French teen, who is backed not only by the French marque but also Mercedes, said ahead of his F1 race debut at Spa-Francorchamps next weekend.
Ocon is replacing Manor's Rio Haryanto, whose Indonesian state funding has dried up. It has been suggested that Renault is treating Ocon's Manor drive as a trial for a full race seat at the works team next year. "The important thing is that I give the best of myself, which will open doors for me. If I start asking myself these questions, for sure my job becomes harder," he told the French magazine Auto Hebdo.
Much has been made this week of Ocon's admission that his sudden graduation from a DTM race seat and Renault reserve role to the F1 grid caught him by surprise. But he insists he is ready. "I have spent a lot of time on the track and in the paddock so yes, I'm ready," said the 19-year-old. "I think I am even more ready than Max Verstappen when he made his debut in formula one," Ocon, who actually beat Verstappen to the 2014 F3 title, added.
And he denied that, unlike Verstappen's meteoric rise from Toro Rosso to Red Bull, making his own debut for a backmarker like Manor is much riskier. "The team is not as weak as it may seem," Ocon insisted.
Not just that, he is being paired with Pascal Wehrlein, another Mercedes-backed junior who has been tipped for an almost certain future at the works team. Asked if he is therefore also auditioning for Mercedes as well as Renault, Ocon smiled: "I hope so. I'm kidding. I honestly don't know. But I don't have to think about this pressure. If I can do my work well, there is no doubt that my future is in formula one." (GMM)
Bahrain International Circuit - Winter testing
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