The narrative behind the next driver to sit in the Mercedes hot seat is an interesting one. Lewis Hamilton is all but nailed, so it is all about being his teammate.
Valtteri Bottas and George Russell are the frontrunners for the role. Bottas is the current Mercedes driver, and he has been great. Russell, meanwhile, got the world’s attention last season. When he delivered a masterclass at Sakhir, he came close to a shock maiden win.
Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. This, however, firmly put Russell along with Bottas for contention. However, we reckon there could be a wildcard option for Mercedes.
Ace up Mercedes’ sleeve?
Enter Esteban Ocon. He has been Alpine’s main man this season, and has outperformed teammate Fernando Alonso in all four races so far. Alpine’s best result came through him, with a P7 at the Portuguese GP.
His performances have been noted by Mercedes and Toto Wolff. Ocon was a Mercedes junior when he started off in F1. Currently, he isn’t a favourite for the spot, but Wolff refused to rule him out at the Spanish GP.
“Esteban is also one of the drivers that is connected to us, whilst being a full-fledged Renault or Alpine driver,” he said.
“We have a very good relationship with Alpine. So obviously Valtteri is the driver today, and Lewis is the driver today, and what will be next year, will be next year. He [Ocon] has impressed me. How well he qualifies and how well he races, and now it’s just about consolidating that position,” he added.
However, Wolff says it is ultimately Ocon and Alpine’s decision.
“It’s a little bit of a weird situation, because he’s been a Mercedes junior for a long time, and he’s an Alpine works driver now,” Wolff explained.
“That’s a fact. I think the situation is good for him there. He’s growing, he’s putting in the performances. He’s French. All that is very much the stars aligning.
“I think it needs to be Laurent [Rossi, Alpine CEO] and Esteban’s call first, how to continue, before we start to give an opinion,” he stressed.
Unwavering focus from Ocon
Meanwhile, Ocon insisted that his focus was racing for Alpine. He added that he wasn’t thinking of a Mercedes seat at the moment.
“What I’m focusing on is to do a good job here, at Alpine,” Ocon said. “I think we have to be glad with our progress, and I’m glad with the progress I’ve made as well this year.
“I’m focusing on delivering the best I can at each single race, so you know, for sure if you perform, there will always be talks and things going on. But my aim is to deliver for the team that I’m racing at, and my home is here at the moment,” he concluded.
Read more: “If it translates here”: Ocon believes next race will determine how Alpine fares this season