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Ocon was 'very close' to 2020 Mercedes drive

  • Published on 21 Jan 2020 08:19
  • comments 9
  • By: Fergal Walsh

Esteban Ocon says he was "very close" to securing a full-time race deal at the Mercedes Formula 1 team for 2020.

After losing his spot at Force India at the end of 2018, Ocon spent 2019 on the sidelines with Mercedes, performing his duties as a development and reserve driver.

The Frenchman was in contention for a seat at the Silver Arrows in 2020, however Mercedes opted to stick with Valtteri Bottas, leaving Ocon to sign with Renault.

MOREOcon 'listening to the team' for early setup advice | Ocon not disappointed to miss out on 2020 Mercedes seat

When asked by ESPN how close he was to racing for the reigning world champions, Ocon said: "Very close, and until the last moment there were discussions. But that's done now and I have to look ahead and what I have in front of me."

Ocon thought people would forget him

Mercedes team boss Toto Wolff later explained that placing Ocon alongside Lewis Hamilton was too much of a risk, given the strong form of the latter in recent years.

Ocon admits that he was afraid that people would forget about him as he was not racing full-time, but hailed the efforts of Mercedes to get him back on the grid.

"No, there is nothing certain in Formula 1," he said. "I thought people would forget a bit, because I was not on the grid, not performing, and early in the year when the driver market was quiet, it was a very long period for me.

"I was asking myself lots of questions, but then the team did a fantastic job to find solutions and we were really working hard on all the topics and they were on top of it because we managed to find a great option for me."

'Emotional' to be back at Renault

Ocon took part in the post-season Abu Dhabi with Renault, as he got up to speed with the team ahead of the 2020 campaign. 

The 23-year-old admits that it's emotional to be a full-time driver at Renault, having spent some of his junior career part of the team when it ran under the Lotus name.

MORERenault announces launch date of 2020 car | Video: Ocon has his seat fitting at Renault

"I know the team very well because I was growing there in my junior career," he said. "I didn't go there in 2009, but from 2010 I was there, learning English, training at the factory and going to the factory.

"Of course, a lot of people have moved and come in, there are a lot of new people and the factory has completely changed.

"But it's a team I know very well and this is also why it is great to continue the story from back in the days, because back then the target was always to be in a race seat with that team. So it's kind of emotional."

Replies (9)

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  • Shocking, I honestly never felt he was close to that seat. I certainly didn't think he deserved. Not least for the year he had at Force India but also the fact he hadn't driven in a year and only has two years of experience

    • + 0
    • Jan 22 2020 - 04:21
    • Arrows F1

      Posts: 908

      I agree, I'm wondering how he will get along Ricciardo next year. Ricciardo had a bit of a slow start but after that becoming on top of the internal battle. Because of a year out of F1 think Ocon also needs some time to build confidence and think the first half year going to be easy for Ricciardo also since Ocon indeed never impressed me compared to Perez.

      • + 0
      • Jan 22 2020 - 05:01
    • Knowing F1 I thought it was unlikely but didn't discount it. Listening to Toto in interviews, Toto believes, and rightfully so, that he can put anyone in his car and said driver will be a top 4 contender. As for Ocon vs Ricciardo: Ocon struggled against Perez, and I'd put Ricciardo ahead of Perez, meaning Ocon will likely have a repeat of his Force India drive.

      • + 1
      • Jan 22 2020 - 07:31
  • Good call on Merc's part and I respect that they didn't just push him into the F1 ex-drivers bin like RBR woulda done.

    • + 0
    • Jan 22 2020 - 09:24
    • This time. Wehrlein wasn't quite as lucky.

      • + 1
      • Jan 22 2020 - 10:00
    • Arrows F1

      Posts: 908

      Think Mercedes is the opposite and don't want to give them a real change but letting him go to Renault. I do believe Red Bull is too quick with letting away Vergne and Sainz but also have doubts if Sainz would have been that good in a Red Bull. Think Mclaren and Sainz are a good match and Lando is still a rookie learning a lot.

      • + 0
      • Jan 22 2020 - 10:40
  • f1ski

    Posts: 726

    Ocons has the same problem as Grojean. No not being french. The he realizes he will be passed he crashes out his opponent. He and Perez had how many crashes. Thats the real reason he is not in a MB seat

    • + 0
    • Jan 22 2020 - 14:01
    • Yes. Force India lost a vast amount of points with the antics between Pérez and Ocon, crashing, not letting each other by while on different strategies, etc. I get why Ocon did it, try to avoid being labeled. But that only works if you are a top driver but bringing home the goods. Not if you score half as many points as your teammate

      • + 0
      • Jan 22 2020 - 15:23
  • xoya

    Posts: 583

    He was very close. The guy sitting next to him got it. ;)

    • + 0
    • Jan 23 2020 - 20:06

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