Ocon hopes Merc release him for Abu Dhabi test

Esteban Ocon is hoping Mercedes will give him the go ahead to drive during the two-day post-season test with his new 2020 team, Renault.

Dropped by Racing Point at the end of 2018, Ocon spent this season filling the role of Mercedes’ test and reserve driver.

After months of negotiations, though, he will be back on the grid next season having signed with Renault.

Mercedes motorsport boss Toto Wolff has made it clear that once Ocon moves over he will be a Renault driver only, no ties to the Mercedes F1 team.

However, whether that move will take place in December or only in January remains to be seen.

Ocon is hoping to get a jump on his 2020 preparations by taking part in the post-season Abu Dhabi test in December but concedes that decision depends on Wolff.

“I don’t know, but hopefully as soon as possible,” Grandpx.news quotes him as having said.

“I hope I can do the test in Abu Dhabi, but the two teams will have to decide if that is possible.

“But of course that is what I would like.”

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Renault predict fiery Ricciardo/Ocon relationship

Renault principal Cyril Abiteboul is prepared for a few problems on the pit wall with Daniel Ricciardo and Esteban Ocon in 2020.

Ocon will replace Nico Hulkenberg next season, returning to Formula 1 after a year on the sidelines to partner Ricciardo who at that time will be entering his second season with the team.

When it comes to relations with his team-mate Ocon hasn’t always been a joy to manage – his relationship with Sergio Perez at Force India was very frosty to say the least as the pair collided on multiple occasions in pursuit of a 2019 seat.

The Frenchman also had a famous bust up with Max Verstappen in Brazil last year, so Abiteboul is well aware that Renault may have a few explosive situations to diffuse between Ricciardo and Ocon in 2020.

“[Esteban] will want to beat Daniel,”Abiteboul told the F1 website bluntly.

“And I know that we will have some challenges from a driver management perspective on the pit wall to manage that. But that’s also a nice problem to have.”

Abiteboul insists that Ocon’s arrival will give the team a different “dynamic” to what they have now with Hulkenberg.

“The problem sometimes in Formula 1 is you have people doing very long careers, and at the end, they are a bit [there] to be in Formula 1 and almost [winning] becomes secondary. I don’t want that at any point in the company,” he explained.

“Don’t get me wrong, when I’m saying that, I’m not talking about Nico… But I do feel that when you are 22, [in the] early days of your career – a career for which you had to fight a lot… it’s a different dynamic. It’s the sort of dynamic that I feel is the right dynamic for our team.

“So if you ask me whether we’ve taken Esteban because Esteban is simply a better driver than Nico, I am absolutely unable to tell you… But do I believe that it’s better in the dynamic of our team? Yes, I feel so.”

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Ricciardo thinking ‘selfishly’ about Ocon move

Daniel Ricciardo is thinking “selfishly” about Esteban Ocon becoming his team-mate, seeing him as another way to improve.

Ricciardo will be joined in what will be his second season with Renault by Ocon, who was signed to replace the outgoing Nico Hulkenberg once Mercedes opted to stick with Valtteri Bottas for the 2020 season.

Ocon was forced to spend a year on the sidelines as reserve and development driver at the Silver Arrows after losing his SportPesa Racing Point seat and seeing his other potential options dry up.

But, as he prepares to make his return next season, Ricciardo is looking forward to the challenge and is also viewing his new team-mate as way for him to become an even better driver, too.

“For me, the way I see a new team-mate actually is, selfishly, a way to improve,” Ricciardo told Ziggo Sport.

“Every driver has something different. It is impossible to better in every phase of every corner on every single day.

“Naturally, you’re not always going to be faster. Even if it is one corner then you can still learn something.

“Having another driver in is another way for me to study, to learn, to improve, ok it’s not great for the team with stability, but with driving it is a chance to learn more.

“I’m looking forward to it and it should be fun.”

Ricciardo is contracted to Renault until the end of the 2020 season and is looking for the Enstone team to tick another big box next year with the chassis after making improvements with their power unit this campaign.

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Ocon: Year out has made me a better driver

No Formula 1 driver wants to spend a year on the sidelines, but Esteban Ocon believes the knowledge and experience he gained while out has turned him into a “better package” and made him “more hungry”.

After spending two seasons at Force India/Racing Point, the Frenchman lost his race seat to Lance Stroll.

He then looked set for a move to Renault, but that deal collapsed at the last minute and he ended up taking the role of Mercedes reserve driver.

However, patience was a virtue as he will be back on the grid in 2020 as he has signed a multi-year deal with Renault.

Asked by Autosport.com what he gained as a reserve driver, the 23-year-old replied: “A lot of things.

“I didn’t drive as much as I would have liked to. Back in those days you could test the cars and drive millions of kilometres before getting back in it.

“I’ve done that in the simulator. I did test all the parts that the team put on the weekend.

“So I am aware of all the latest news of the current generation of cars. I think that’s a positive thing.

“On the other side not being driving I could also learn the other part of the world of F1, which is more experience, more knowledge for me and more things learned for the future.

“Seeing what the team expect from a driver, some things you cannot think about when you are racing. Because you don’t hear the people speaking internally and all that.

“As Toto [Wolff] always says, the more things you see and the more knowledge you have for the future, the more experience that makes in the end.

“And that makes you a better athlete, also a better driver in the end, a better package.”

Spending time outside the cockpit also means he has renewed hunger ahead of the 2020 campaign.

“This year has been tough mentally and on the emotion side as well, seeing those guys go so well and me being on the sideline,” he added.

“It’s not something that’s particularly great.

“But I think it can only make you stronger and more keen to come back, and I’m more hungry for when I come back.”

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Wolff: Ocon snub didn’t affect trust in Renault

Despite Renault pulling out of a deal to sign Esteban Ocon last season, Mercedes principal Toto Wolff insists they didn’t lose trust in the team.

The French manufacturer had agreed to take Mercedes’ reserve driver Ocon for 2019, but when Daniel Ricciardo became available and interested in joining the team, they cooled their interest in Ocon.

That left Ocon without a drive for 2019, much to the frustration of Wolff following the collapse of Force India.

However, Wolff insists that he continued to trust Renault and their principal Cyril Abiteboul, and now Ocon will indeed move to Renault for 2020 and 2021, replacing Nico Hulkenberg.

“No, we never lost the trust,” Wolff told Motorsport.com. “There are so many common things that we discuss between Renault and Mercedes, where we discuss how the sport should go, and that as much as the situation on Esteban affected us and we let some words slip, this is part of the game.

“There were phases where we were upset with each other, but then you need to move on. It hasn’t changed anything on the respect I have for Cyril, and the respect I have for Renault as a brand. That’s why we moved on. We need to play hard and forgive quickly.”

Abiteboul admitted that the situation was not handled well last year by Renault or Mercedes.

“I was not feeling extremely comfortable at the way things developed last year,” he admitted.

“Certainly it was absolutely not a good thing, but it was clearly not our intention to leave this guy [Ocon] behind, and to trigger the chain reaction that our decision to seize the opportunity of Daniel would cause.

“I don’t think we can provide all the details, but I think it’s been a whole dynamic probably was not well handled last year by our two companies.

“And that’s why I think we’ve done better this year, I think we’ve been a bit clearer with each other about parameters and timing, and we simply stick to timing and deadlines.

“I think it’s been an extremely fluid discussion, it’s been extremely transparent, with one simple objective.”

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Ocon to bring ‘new perspective’ to Renault

Esteban Ocon hopes he can bring a “new perspective” and “a different way of thinking” to Renault.

The Frenchman will return to the grid in 2020 after a one-year absence to replace Nico Hulkenberg at Renault, leaving behind his reserve driver role with Mercedes.

Despite still being only 22, Ocon will bring experience with him, having also raced for Force India and in the DTM series, and he hopes this will help him breathe “fresh air” into the Renault team.

“I’m currently working with the world champion team which has dominated Formula 1 for a few years. I learned a lot from Mercedes this year,” Ocon told Auto Motor und Sport.

“I will also contribute my experiences with Force India. You must not forget my time in other racing series, like the DTM for example.

“I see certain things from a different angle and bring in a new perspective. They expect that from me.

“They want fresh air, advice and a different way of thinking. I hope I can help move the team forward.”

Ocon insists that his season on the sidelines has been very beneficial to watch from outside everything that goes on in a team and teaches him “aspects that you usually do not notice”.

“What the team expects from a driver, how the team reacts to difficult situations, how to deal with their drivers, these are aspects that you usually do not notice,” he explained.

“The driver in the cockpit doesn’t hear everything. I was able to look at it for a year from the outside.

“This will help me to make the right decisions and respond correctly to different scenarios, to make the team happy.

“I was in the middle of ‘silly season’, so I now know the politics around it. The work on the other hand is very complex. I prefer racing.”

Ocon signed a two-year deal with Renault and he admits that the security through to 2021 is a huge relief for him.

“Long-term contracts give you security in this sport,” he said.

“Sometimes a drive will quickly slip through your fingers. I learned that in 2018.

“It’s good that I do not have to worry about the next two years. I can concentrate on racing and I am not distracted from the outside. That whole thing is a job in its own right in Formula 1.

“This year I had the time to take care of it because I wasn’t driving. But you cannot combine both. I’m in the fortunate situation where I have people in my environment who help me.”

The Frenchman is developing a very close relationship with Renault advisor and four-time Formula 1 World Champion Alain Prost, revealing that they talk for “hours” as he absorbs the support from his compatriot.

“I’ve been in contact with him a lot lately,” Ocon confirmed. “He will be a great help to me.

“He’s become a mentor, a teacher, and he’ll give me good advice. When I talk to him, I never want it to stop. I am absorbing his words and we talk for hours.”

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