Esteban Ocon had a solid return to Formula 1 after a year on the sidelines. The Frenchman was picked up by Renault...
Esteban Ocon has had to overcome many obstacles to get into Formula 1 and after a year out in 2019, he would have been pleased to have been back racing in 2020. Ocon had a mixed season but put in some good results in the second half of the season and even picked up a podium, finishing P2 at the Sakhir Grand Prix.
With Fernando Alonso joining the team for 2021, Ocon will hope to learn from the world champion and not get out performed by him too much which could cost him his future in the sport.
|Team||Alpine F1 team|
Max versus Esteban
His parents sold the parental home and travelled all over the world in a motorhome with their son. Father Ocon is a mechanic and soon witnessed that his child was special. Ocon excelled in go-karting, resulting in a French go-kart title, to then switch to Formula cars in 2012. In Formula Renault 2.0, Ocon finished third in his second year and took three wins in the process. In 2014, the Frenchman would really break through.
While part of the Netherlands would be interested in Max Verstappen, another name would also stand out in the 2014 Formula 3 championship: Esteban Ocon. The two were (and still are) big rivals and fought long for the championship. Ocon was the eventual winner, while Verstappen also had to put up with Tom Blomqvist in the final standings. Verstappen won the most races, but with nine victories, the Frenchman had enough for the title.
Whilst Verstappen moved to Formula 1, Ocon had to make do with a year in GP3. Ocon also won that championship and while he didn’t have any sponsors, he did manage to force a role as a test driver at Force India. In 2016, Ocon would choose not to opt for Formula 2, but would instead drive in the DTM with time to test for Mercedes and Renault, while it was announced that he would be included in the junior programme at Mercedes.
The many investments finally seemed to be worth it and by mid-2016, Esteban's dream would come true. The money of Rio Haryanto turned out to be gone, so Manor wanted another driver. With Mercedes as the engine supplier, the deal was quickly made that Ocon would accompany the other Mercedes protégé with the team that is last on the grid: Pascal Wehrlein.
Wehrlein had been driving in Mercedes training for some time, but is a bit of a 'difficult guy'. This turned out to be to an advantage for the young Frenchman when a spot at Force India became available for 2017. Wehrlein seemed to be the best option in terms of speed and experience, but the Force India team unanimously chose Ocon. The French talent seemed to have made an impression and was able to join Sergio Perez for a full-time season in 2017.
Young Ocon certainly didn’t have an easy time of it. Perez conjured every trick out of his hat and was certainly the better driver in 2017. In 2018 Ocon hit back in qualifying, but Perez was still often outsmarting him on race day. The podium in Azerbaijan showed what was possible in the Force India, but it was the Mexican who took off with the points.
A dark cloud would then form over Force India and Esteban Ocon in mid-2018. The race stable was taken over by Lawrence Stroll, assisted by Sergio Perez. The bag of money from the Mexican also played a part in the decision to let Perez keep his seat for 2019, because Lance Stroll had to have a place in his father's team.
Esteban Ocon ended 2018 without a seat for the next year, after Cyril Abiteboul did not want to miss the chance to bring Daniel Ricciardo in. A year later, the Renault team boss made up for it and gave him the drive instead of Nico Hulkenberg.
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