Wolff denies lining up Ocon as Bottas replacement

Date published: December 13 2017

Toto Wolff has admitted that Esteban Ocon is in the Mercedes “picture”, but has dismissed suggestions that the Force India driver is being lined up to replace Valtteri Bottas in the near future.

Bottas replaced Nico Rosberg at Merc at the start of the year and although he was still in the running for the title during the European leg of the season, he ultimately fell well short as his team-mate Lewis Hamilton wrapped up the Championship at Mexico.

Ocon, meanwhile, had a very successful full debut season in F1 as he finished eighth in the standings and scored points in 18 of the 20 races.

There have been claims that the Brackley-based squad could turn to the Frenchman, who is part of the Mercedes-Benz driver development programme, as a replacement for Bottas, but Wolff is having none of it.

“Esteban is one of our drivers and is therefore in the picture, but the team and all of its strength is behind Valtteri,” he told Finland’s Turun Sanomat newspaper.

“If we to start thinking about other drivers, it would mean that the emotional side would not be 100 per cent for Valtteri,” he added.

“I can assure you, from the board to every team member, we all want Valtteri to succeed,” he said.

“Together with Lewis, he is our driver and we do not think of any others.”

Ocon expects ‘a lot’ of driver moves in 2019

Date published: December 11 2017

Esteban Ocon is preparing himself for a key campaign in 2018 as he is expecting a lot of opportunities to open up in the driver market for 2019.

Valtteri Bottas, Kimi Raikkonen and Daniel Ricciardo are all out of contract at the end of next season and just one change among the top three teams could spark a chain reaction throughout the rest of the Formula 1 grid.

With that in mind, Mercedes-backed Ocon wants to continue to impress with Force India to give himself the best possible chance of moving into the upper echelons of Formula 1.

“2019 is going to pretty open for everyone,” Ocon said to Sky Sports.

“I think there are going to be a lot of movements so if you do a strong job and a good season, then there will be opportunities there. I want to start the season strongly with the experience I have gained this year, and then we’ll see.”

Red Bull’s Max Verstappen is viewed by many as the future of Formula 1, but Ocon feels he can compete with him for that particular title after winning the battle back in their F3 days.

“I was quicker than him, for sure,” Ocon added. “I got a lot more poles than he did. I don’t know if I’m quicker than him now, but I think so.

“You can’t really compare any more, you need to be in the same car to fight together.

“Maybe it’s going to happen at some point, I don’t know. But he’s really doing a good job at the moment and he’s one of the best drivers on the grid.”

Ocon won’t reveal who ‘annoyed’ him in qualy

Date published: November 25 2017

Esteban Ocon refused to reveal the source of his annoyance after missing out on what he felt was an achievable P7 in qualifying at Abu Dhabi.

The young Frenchman, set to complete his first season at Force India, was pipped by 0.023 seconds as team-mate Sergio Perez clinched P8.

But Ocon felt P7, occupied by Nico Hulkenberg in the Renault, was a good target until he was seemingly blocked by another car.

“I’m not going to tell the reason, it’s going to stay inside but it’s a reason we have to solve so it doesn’t happen anymore,” Ocon told Sky Sports.

“I had the pace to go P7 definitely.

“For different reasons we are not there, but it’s okay. It’s only Saturday and the race is what really counts.

“I want to make a good start, jump ahead of a few cars and end the season with a strong result.”

“Tomorrow I can do a good start and maybe jump them so we’ll see.”

Force India keen to end with ‘strong result’

Date published: November 21 2017

Force India are determined to wrap up their 2017 campaign with a “strong result” at the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Sergio Perez: “I enjoy driving at Yas Marina. It’s a track where we’ve been strong for the last few years and I would love to end the year on a high with a strong result. The final race is always a strange feeling because it’s your last opportunity to drive the VJM10 and you don’t know what next year will bring. We don’t have any pressure because fourth place in the championship is confirmed so I can focus on simply enjoying the experience and getting the best result possible.

“There are some interesting corner combinations at Yas Marina and it’s a track that is hard on braking, with a lot of emphasis on traction. There are overtaking opportunities at the end of the long straights so you often find yourself either attacking or defending, especially towards the end of the race.

“As a team we can be satisfied with our season. Finishing fourth is the best we could achieve and, on a personal level, finishing just behind the top six drivers makes me feel proud. We just need to make sure we deliver this weekend and end the season well.”

Esteban Ocon: “The Abu Dhabi weekend is always special and racing at night creates such a nice atmosphere. This season went by so quickly – it’s unbelievable to think we’re already at the final race of the season because it feels like yesterday that we were in Australia. It’s been a successful season and I hope we can finish it in style with a big result.

“I have great memories from Yas Marina: this is where I was crowned GP3 champion in 2015 and where I drove my first FP1 session in Formula One. I have done so much testing around there and I like the place. The two long straights are good opportunities to overtake: you can use the first to get really close to the car in front and make the move on the second. There are opportunities to shake the order up so the race can be quite exciting.

“After Abu Dhabi, it’s not really holidays. It’s back to training, back to the mountains for almost two months. I want to be ready for next season, when the cars are likely to go even faster. It’ll be nice to spend some time with family and friends around Christmas and New Year, but other than that, my focus is on getting ready physically and spending time at the factory.”

Force India ‘would surprise’ with budget cap

Date published: November 17 2017

Esteban Ocon believes Force India could spring a “surprise” if a budget cap was introduced to Formula 1.

Discussions over a framework for a budget cap have been discussed this month ahead of a potential introduction in time for the 2019 season and Ocon has welcomed the prospect.

“Honestly, if everyone had the same budget, I think some people would be surprised what Force India can achieve,” Ocon said.

“At the moment, with the budget we have, what we are achieving is amazing, the level of work we are putting in is a lot.

“But at the end the level is there and the performance is on track. So yeah, it would be nice [to introduce a cap].”

Formula 1 owners Liberty Media are keen to level the playing field in order to boost the entertainment value but there has been a mixed response to their engine proposals for 2021 with Mercedes, Renault and most recently Ferrari all publicly stating their disapproval.

That’s fourth for Force India

Date published: October 30 2017

Force India will finish this year’s championship fourth in the Constructors’ standings after a strong double points-haul in Mexico.

Esteban Ocon was running as high as third but was leapfrogged by Kimi Raikkonen in the pits before falling to charging Sebastian Vettel.

Despite coming under pressure from Lance Stroll, he held on to finish fifth.

With 175 points on the board, Force India are officially fourth in the Constructors’ Championship for the second year running.

“It’s a great day for the team. Fifth place in the race and securing fourth place in the championship is a fantastic achievement after a strong season,” Ocon said.

“For a while I believed the podium was possible because I was sitting in third place for so long. 

“I made a great start and then I pushed as hard as I could in the free air. 

“Sadly the Virtual Safety Car gave Kimi an advantage during the pit stops and he was able to overtake us.

“The final few laps of the race with [Lance] Stroll behind me were not easy. He had fresher tyres and managed to catch me, so I had to give it everything to stay ahead.

“When you work so hard for a result it feels very satisfying so I look forward to celebrating.”

As for Perez, the Mexican racer finished seventh at his home event.

“The main objective of the weekend was to confirm fourth place in the championship so I’m extremely happy that we have done this with two races to spare,” he said.

“It’s been another special weekend with so much support from the fans and I have to say a huge thank you to all of them for the energy they have given me.”

Ocon unhappy with ‘dangerous’ sausage kerbs

Date published: October 27 2017

The FIA’s decision to install sausage kerbs at the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez could have dangerous consequences; that’s according to Esteban Ocon.

Following last Sunday’s debate over track limits, the result of Max Verstappen’s post-race penalty, the FIA took action in Mexico.

Motorsport’s governing body had sausage kerbs installed at Turns 1 and 2 with more between Turns 2 and 3 as well as Turns 7/8 and 11.

Ocon, though, says they could cause more harm than good.

“No one wants to go off, but it is a bit harsh,” he told Motorsport.com. “It is dangerous. 

“You are going to launch and I think it’s not going to stay like this. 

“I think if someone hits that they will have to make a chassis change.”

He added: “There’s no way to rejoin. We can’t rejoin the track so we have to cut the grass.”