Verstappen versus Ocon
His parents sold the family home and travelled the world with their son in a camper van. Father Ocon is a mechanic and quickly saw that his child is special. Ocon excels in karting, resulting in a French karting title, before making the switch to Formula Cars in 2012. In Formula Renault 2.0, Ocon finished third in his second year and took three wins. In 2014, the Frenchman really broke through.
Alongside Max Verstappen, another name stood out in the 2014 Formula 3 championship: Esteban Ocon. The two became great rivals and battled for the championship for a long time. Ocon was the eventual winner, while Verstappen also had to surpass Tom Blomqvist in the final standings. Verstappen won more races, but with nine victories the Frenchman has enough for the title.
While Verstappen left for Formula 1, Ocon had to make do with a year in GP3. Ocon won that championship and while he had no sponsors, he did manage to secure a role as a test driver with Force India. In 2016, Ocon did not opt for Formula 2, instead driving in the DTM with time to test for Mercedes and Renault in addition. Meanwhile, Mercedes announced that he had been included in their young driver programme.
The many investments finally seem to be paying off and by mid-2016 as Esteban's dream came true. Rio Haryanto's money appears to have run out and so Manor wanted a new driver. With Mercedes as an engine supplier, the deal is soon done that Ocon will join the other Mercedes protégé at the team: Pascal Wehrlein.
Wehrlein has been in Mercedes' training for some time. This proved to be to the young Frenchman's advantage when a spot became available at Force India for 2017. Wehrlein seemed likely to be the best option in terms of speed and experience, but Force India's mechanics unanimously opted for Ocon. The young French talent impressed and stepped in for a full-time season alongside Sergio Perez in 2017.
Alongside Perez, the young Ocon didn’t have it easy. Perez pulled every trick out of his top hat and was certainly the better driver in 2017. In 2018, Ocon struck back in qualifying, but Perez still beat him more often than not on Sunday. The podium in Azerbaijan showed what was possible in the Force India, but it was the Mexican who walked away with the points.
Halfway through 2018, a dark cloud forms over Force India and Esteban Ocon. The team was taken over by Lawrence Stroll.
Esteban Ocon ended up without a seat, after Cyril Abiteboul didn’t want to miss the opportunity to bring in Daniel Ricciardo. A year later, the Renault team boss makes amends, when he still has a place at the Renault F1 team for the Mercedes junior in 2020. This left Nico Hulkenberg out of the running and the German without a team in 2020.
In 2020, Esteban Ocon had to get used to the speed of Formula 1. He had a tough task with teammate Daniel Ricciardo. He lost the duel between them, but managed to get up to speed towards the end of the season. His first F1 podium at the Sakhir Grand Prix was ultimately his best performance of the year.
Ocon and Alonso are a strong duo
In 2021, Ocon drove against a very experienced and motivated top driver. Fernando Alonso returned to the team with which he won two world championships and Ocon was faced with the difficult task of holding his own alongside the F1 veteran. Although Alonso till proved competitive after a number of races, the Frenchman certainly did not drive in his shadow.
The highlight of his season came at the Hungarian Grand Prix, which Ocon won in surprising fashion. He was helped by his teammate, who managed to keep all possible opponents behind him for a long time. The partnership with Alonso proved to be very successful at that race.
Esteban Ocon in 2023
While Ocon was still ahead of his experienced teammate in the final standings in 2021, in 2022 he finished ahead of Alonso by 11 points. In 2023, Alonso will leave for Aston Martin and Ocon will be joined by Gasly. That promises to be an exciting line-up, as it is no secret that the two cannot like each other. However, they were once good friends, so as teammates, they will have to put aside their differences and try to revive their old friendship.