He’s 22 and he’s a part of Mercedes’ driver development programme, currently driving for Racing Point Force India. Seems like it’s all good, however, after the former Force India was sold to a consortium of investors led by Lawrence Stroll, it became obvious that Lance Stroll is the first candidate for Ocon’s place. This laid a huge pressure on him, as he found himself in a situation where he should urgently find a seat in another team to stay in F1.
It should be mentioned that Esteban himself isn’t searching for places in other series, as F1 races is exactly what he aims for.
"I do not need to gain more experience outside of F1," he said. "I will stay fully focused on F1 and act like nothing else matters".
Well, several opportunities were examined, but none of them worked for some reasons. The day before yesterday it was announced that yet another Mercedes’ protege, George Russell, signed a multi-year deal with Williams. That means minus one potential seat for Esteban, however the contract with Sergey Sirotkin is still not re-signed, which means Ocon still has a chance to partner Russell in the team from Grove next year. Moreover, in her latest interview Claire Williams clearly confirmed the possibility:
"We are still doing a lot of evaluation work. It's a short short-list. We're very happy with the drivers we are evaluating and it will not take us a long time to make that final decision. Of course Esteban is in the mix. We would be crazy not to be looking at him." she told Sky Sports.
But if not Williams F1 team, if Sirotkin will manage to stay, what then? Are there any other ways not to break the connection with the Formula 1 world?
There are indeed, as Mercedes’ Team Principal Toto Wolff stated he is ready for playing a long game with Ocon:
"We still very much hope we can find a good solution for him for next year," said Wolff. "But where he is in his career, we are not desperate for a seat next year. We are prepared to play the long game.
Eventually he is going to be somebody that is going to be successful in Formula 1. If it means having a sabbatical year, then I’m fine with it."
Now, as George Russell will be driving for Williams in 2019, his position of Mercedes’ reserve driver is free - and for Esteban Ocon as well; in addition, the Frenchman may also have the same role in Force India. Considering his low chances of being a race driver next year, it’s a pretty good choice to remain in F1 structure and prepare for 2020 season.